As English Tourism Week (16-24 March) signals the start of the 2013 domestic tourist season, rural tourism initiative Our Land announces that despite 2012’s poorest tourist season for a decade, it created more than 10,000 over night stays and, in the first 16 months of operation, has more than doubled the return on public investment by DEFRA over the same period, generating £0.75 million for local, rural economies.
Launched in October 2011 by two National Parks and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the South East and currently representing 16 protected landscapes across the country, Our Land champions Britain’s countryside and rural responsible tourism. Set up to develop and promote locally distinctive experiences it ensures the rural economy simultaneously receives a crucial boost: National Park and AONB managers work with local businesses to assess and help develop their commitment to tourism that benefits their local community and landscape and, once successful, businesses feature on www.our-land.co.uk – a website offering visitors a selection of 800 hand picked holidays.
Statistics from the last tourist season had set a very gloomy picture revealing the impact of Britain’s wettest summer for 100 years. The washed out summer and the decrease in UK domestic travel over the Olympic period, coupled with the depressing economic climate triggered the worst domestic tourist season in over a decade.
The British tourism industry runs at a huge deficit of £14 billion, where the country struggles to raise the numbers for domestic tourism (nearly 30% of Brits holiday abroad compared to around 16% of neighbouring European countries).
Despite the climate, Our Land demonstrates there is a growing market for rural tourism experiences which directly contribute to an industry worth over £97 billion to the economy.
Justin Francis MD at responsibletravel.com, Our Land’s private sector partner, says:
“By uniting and working in collaboration, the UK can offer exciting, meaningful alternatives to the low cost, short haul overseas holiday. The strength of Our Land lies in its collaboration with National Parks and AONBs where we’ve come together for the benefit of the local rural economy, helping to safe guard jobs and to keep rural communities alive.”
Our Land holidays (places to stay and things to do) include staying in traditional and characteristic buildings, tasting distinctive home grown food, watching local wildlife, learning rural skills and – most importantly – meeting local people and hearing their stories. All engage visitors in the culture, heritage and nature of the UK’s rural protected landscapes.
Nick Johannsen, Director of the Kent Downs AONB Unit and Chairman of Our Land says:
“Our Land is able to offer tourists distinctive and special experiences in the countryside because the National Parks and AONBs work with local businesses to unearth and develop unique features, knowledge and characteristics that make their business a powerful part of the local experience.”
The 2013 UK tourist season is looking bright for the continued growth of Our Land with its expanding list of partners and supporters including the RSPB, Campaign for the Protection of Rural England (CPRE) and Ordnance Survey.
James Berresford, CEO of Visit England says:
“At the start of a new tourist season English Tourism Week is a great way to get Britons thinking of England as their next holiday destination by reminding them what’s on their doorstep. I’m excited to see how Our Land performs this coming season and fully support its ethos and development.”
Seven new protected landscapes from outside of the South East have recently signed up to join the initiative, including one from Northern Ireland, and Our Land is now available to all UK National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty to become members.