How we can all help the West Sussex tourism sector get back on its feet

People in West Sussex are being encouraged to support our local tourism businesses as the sector reopens and starts to rebuild.

English Tourism Week starts on Saturday (May 22) and runs until May 31, highlighting the importance, value and vast contribution the sector makes to the economy.

To see just a few of the amazing places to visit in West Sussex click here.

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In 2019, tourism was one of England’s largest and most valuable industries, supporting 2.6m jobs in England, more than 38,000 of them in West Sussex.

Charleston House Garden near Lewes

Figures from Visit England suggest that domestic tourism spend for Britain will reach just 67 per cent of 2019 levels, without accounting for the loss of international visitors.

“Pre-Covid-19, the industry was worth over £2.1billion a year to the local economy,” says Jo Williams, manager of Experience West Sussex Partnership.

“Tourism and hospitality jobs have been hard hit across the county with the impact reaching every part of West Sussex, including the coastal towns, high streets and rural areas.

“We are working hard with partners to support our businesses and attractions as they reopen in line with the Government’s roadmap”.

The Experience West Sussex Partnership (EWSP) says it is the central voice for the region on tourism, destination management and the visitor economy, delivering leadership, lobbying, industry intelligence, local business support and creative marketing campaigns to attract visitors to the area.

During 2020, EWSP worked hard to support businesses, setting up a dedicated industry support section on the website which included the latest updates and guidance, information on funding and grants and a wide range of business toolkits and industry webinars.

There were also fully subsidised marketing opportunities for West Sussex tourism businesses, including campaigns such as #WestSussexWishlist and #RediscoverWestSussex. #ShopSussex was an initiative set up at speed on to boost online sales and therefore cashflow to local businesses during lockdown.

Visit England’s latest consumer sentiment research has shown slow but steady gains in consumer confidence in taking domestic trips this year. Thirty-one percent of people it surveyed were confident in the ability to take a domestic overnight trip in May, rising to 44 per cent in June, 53 per cent in July, 60 per cent in August and 65 per cent in September.

These figures demonstrate the importance of extending the tourism season this year.

“Our year-long recovery campaign, which kicked off on Boxing Day 2020, features new promotional videos and marketing campaigns featuring water sports, gardens, and gourmet delights” says Jo Williams.

“The county is expecting a busy summer season for our businesses.

“In anticipation of increased numbers, we are also running a consumer campaign encouraging responsible visits this summer, highlighting to visitors to ‘Protect, Respect Enjoy’ and to ‘Keep West Sussex Safe’.

“Meanwhile planning is full steam ahead for the autumn and winter months: a collective effort is needed to help get the sector back on its feet and thriving all year round.”

EWSP has backed a call by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions for an extra Bank Holiday this year to help boost the visitor economy.

Kat Beer is the sustainable tourism lead for South Downs National Park, and is encouraging people to find out more about the vast range of visitor experiences.

“We’re lucky to have so many wonderful visitor attractions and hospitality venues across the National Park, offering everything from beautiful views and sumptuous local food and drink, to fascinating history, arts and culture,” she said.

“The tourism sector is one of the cornerstones of our rural economy and part of the socio-economic fabric that makes the South Downs such a special place to live, visit and work in.

“After a long and incredibly difficult year, venues have worked really hard to be in a position to re-open this spring and it’s lovely that many will be back to doing what they do best as we mark English Tourism Week.

“It’s really important to support these local venues as they do need visitors to survive. We also need to recognise that many may be operating at reduced capacity and it may take a while before they’re back to normal.

“So it’s worth planning ahead before any visit to the South Downs – doing simple things such as checking opening times, finding out booking arrangements and what parking facilities are available.

“Above all we want people to have a great experience while visiting this treasured landscape and take home some happy memories.”

The National Park has some simple ‘Happy Nature, Happy You’ tips for people visiting the National Park to ensure everyone has the best experience possible. Visit Tourism Week is coordinated by VisitEngland.