West Sussex is enjoying a ten per cent uplift in tourists this year, representatives of some of the county’s finest attractions were told this week.
They gathered at the magnificent Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens near Horsham to celebrate the county’s growing success and see how they could further support each other.
The county already plays host to 22 million visitors a year generating almost £1 billion for the West Sussex economy.
Coinciding with English Tourism Week, the event showcased the Experience West Sussex partnership which has seen the county council work with the seven district and borough councils across the county to ‘promote and maximise’ the best of what West Sussex has to offer visitors.
One of the keynote speakers, Krishan Kadodwala, director of UK market management at Expedia, said the firm was seeing a ten per cent increase year on year in West Sussex tourism.
He said the biggest increase internationally was from visitors coming from Germany and the United States but the company was also seeing large numbers of people booking stays from within the country, particularly London.
According to the partnership around 22 million people visit West Sussex each year with £258m spent on overnight stays.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, who hosted the event said: “West Sussex is a box of delights. We have everything here for whoever you are, whatever age you are.
“West Sussex is one of the best counties to come and visit, there is something for everyone which we don’t tell everyone.”
As well as representatives from the different councils industry leaders from the tourism sector were also on hand share their expertise.
Mark Lever, head of corporate affairs at Gatwick Airport, said: “There are 5.5m oversee visitors every year that come through Gatwick.
“They spend 45.5m in the UK but only 10m of this is in the south east. While 10m a year of 45.5m is not a small number we definitely thought we could do more to spread the word.”
Mr Lever said the airport was working with West Sussex County Council along with authorities in East Sussex, Surrey and Kent to get the areas working together to promote all the wonderful attractions on offer in the south east.
He added: “It’s about all our neighbours sharing in the benefits from having a major international airport in their midst.”
Masterchef 2018 winner Kenny Tutt is about to open new restaurant The Pitch in Worthing’s Warwick Street.
He said it was the Sussex charm which convinced him to open the new fine dining experience in the county instead of the capital.
He said: “A lot of people said to me open a restaurant in London. I said why? It’s crying out for it here. I chose Sussex for a reason. I think we have so much to give.”
Lee Harris, county council executive director for economy, infrastructure and environment, said: “West Sussex has a vibrant and diverse visitor economy. The tourism sector accounts for 48,800 jobs and contributes to nearly £1 billion to the West Sussex economy annually.
“We have an abundance of fascinating places and experiences for visitors, from the South Downs to characterful coastal resorts, picturesque villages to towns packed with culture heritage and retail. It is important to celebrate the wealth of visitor experiences and to work together to grow the economic value and contribution of tourism to business and the wider community.”
Gary Shipton, the Editor and Editorial Director of this newspaper, was the compere for the event. He said: “What a terrific opportunity to bring so many jewels in the West Sussex tourism crown together - so that they could share ideas and find news ways of collectively making the county even more vibrant.
“I was struck by the huge passion of the hundred or so attendees to really build on the whole notion of Experience West Sussex - and support one another in doing so.
“It is a great example of the county council and all the districts and borough working together for the common good.”