More needs to be done to ensure Wychavon cashes in on a ‘Brexit boost’ to tourism, according to the district’s MP.
Britain is seeing record numbers of overseas visitors flock to the country as a result of the drop in the value of the pound following the EU referendum. There were four million visits to Britain in July alone by non-UK residents, up six per cent on the year before. However, London tends to be the main beneficiary as about half of them never get outside of the M25.
Wychavon is already visited by some 3.5million people every year, supporting more than 3,100 jobs and contributing almost £175million to the local economy, a figure that has grown by £80 million over the last ten years.
However, at a meeting last Friday (29 September 2017) at the Civic Centre in Pershore to examine the state of tourism in Wychavon, businesses heard how 73 per cent of visitors come from within the West Midlands and only a tiny proportion were from overseas.
That is something Nigel Huddleston MP, whose Mid-Worcestershire constituency includes Evesham and Droitwich, believes has to change if Wychavon is to benefit from the record growth in tourism.
Mr Huddleston, who is a Parliamentary Private Secretary in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport that includes tourism, said: “For the fifth or sixth year running we are likely to have record numbers of inbound tourists and Wychavon needs to make sure it’s getting its fair share.
“London is an anchor and people around the world come to the UK partly because of what London has to offer, but what we need to do is increase the average length of stay of overseas visitors so they can be encouraged to experience other parts of the UK.
“We have major international tourist destinations, like Stratford and Oxford, just a hop, skip and a jump from Wychavon yet we’re not feeling the impact of that. Wychavon has the most tremendous tourism offering but we’re not taking full advantage.”
Other areas highlighted for improvement during the event included the need to tap into the growing coach tour market and encourage more people to stay overnight, rather than just for the day. There was also concern raised about the difficulties marketing Wychavon, when it does not physically exist.
Cllr Richard Morris, Portfolio Holder for Economy and Housing on Wychavon District Council, said: “There’s some excellent work already happening across Wychavon including the recent launch of Droitwich Salt and our award-winning Asparagus and Pershore Plum festivals to name just a few. We also receive wonderful support from volunteers and the community, particularly in delivering our successful festival and events programme. The challenge now is how do we sustain and continue that success. The event gave us much food for thought and this is the start of the process of us working with partners and our community to generate ideas to tap into new markets and the boom in tourism Britain is experiencing.”