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Kent Tourism Leaders Launch New Sustainability Plan and Urge Government to Ease Border Pressures  

Visit Kent – the destination management organisation for the county has marked ‘Kent Day’ by holding a joint reception yesterday at The House of Commons with The Port of Dover and LeShuttle hosted by Damian Collins MP.  The reception saw speakers celebrating Kent’s tourism and hospitality industry and the launch of a new sustainability plan for the county.  Speakers also highlighted some of the ongoing challenges at and the opportunities offered by the Short Straits crossings to attending MPs and local Government officials.

The new sustainability plan for the visitor economy in Kent has been developed over a number of months by The Act for Impact Group which includes sustainability leaders from the county’s tourism industry, public sector and nature conservation organisations.  These leaders are involved with some of Kent’s flagship sustainability initiatives such as the plan to secure UNESCO Global Geopark status for the Kent Downs AONB, Wilder Blean, the Southeastern Carbon Calculator and the Produced in Kent Food Loop. 

The plan has three key priorities:

  • To reduce the impact of food on nature and our climate by actively encouraging local, seasonal, organic and plant-based options on menus and increasing demand by celebrating Kentish produce;
  • To encourage visitors to use low carbon and active travel options when travelling to and around the county by making it easier for visitors to find information about these modes of transport; and
  • To develop a new innovative nature payback pilot scheme – ‘Back to Nature’ – which will encourage visitors to ‘pay it back’ to Kent’s nature and wildlife by supporting regenerative projects that increase biodiversity.

Visit Kent have also launched a new set of resources for tourism businesses to support them to take positive action and have invited small businesses (who are already implementing sustainability initiatives in Kent) to inspire the business community by becoming ‘Impact Heroes.’  Key examples include Canterbury Brewers and Distillers, Romney Marsh Wools and Shepherds Huts, Castle Farm Kent, Terlingham Vineyard, The Rebel Farmer, and Carley Coaching Ltd.

A new consumer campaign ‘It’s In Our Nature’ has also launched which encourages visitors and residents to start making small changes.

Deirdre Wells OBE, CEO of Visit Kent said: “There is so much to celebrate in our wonderful county on Kent Day – our beautiful landscapes, produce, attractions and accommodation offer, but we need to make sure that we preserve and enhance these very aspects of our county that we rely on to entertain and attract our visitors, residents and future investment in addition to helping combat the climate crisis that we are already feeling the impact of in The Garden of England.    

“Kent is now one of the driest counties in the UK and this change in our climate together with a loss of green spaces and biodiversity also makes our county the most at risk for flooding and plays a role in the discharge of sewage into our precious waterways. This is why we have developed a new sustainability plan in close collaboration with key partners across the county which outlines the steps that we need to take between now and 2030 so that we can all play our part in the transition towards Net Zero and a nature positive future.”

Damian Collins MP for Folkestone and Hythe comments: “Kent is the gateway to the nation and a coveted destination in its own right: a vibrant tapestry of outstanding natural beauty, iconic heritage, a rich cultural offering, thriving foodie scene, and leisure attractions catering for all. 

“In Kent the tourist industry employs 1 in 10 people, directly supports 6,000 businesses, and has contributed over £4billion to the local economy. I warmly welcomed Visit Kent in Parliament yesterday as they launched their new sustainability plan. Climate resilience is increasingly important, and we need to get the message out there that, far from being a burden, a focus on sustainability is positive for both nature and local business.”

Doug Bannister, Chief Executive at Port of Dover said: “As an industry leader in trade and travel for the UK, we are very proud of our strategic location in Kent.  By facilitating traffic on the shortest routes connecting tourists and supply chains to Europe we provide premier services connecting people and businesses. 

“Our vital gateway connects trade, travel, visitors, and communities locally-globally, welcoming millions of travellers each year. We also deliver world class travel and visitor experiences through our thriving cruise business and new marina, which are central to our waterfront development.

“We are leading an ambitious sustainability agenda, aiming for net carbon zero by 2025.  In fact, we have already reduced our carbon emissions by 95% since 2007.  Optimising traffic flow and maintaining border fluidity are key success factors for our port.  We continue to adapt our infrastructure to manage in our new travel environment, and are working closely with our government to deliver solutions for the upcoming changes arising from Europe’s introduction of their Entry/Exit System.”

Deborah Merrens, Chief Commercial Officer at LeShuttle said: “LeShuttle is the fastest, greenest way to bring continental visitors across the Channel and we were delighted to have sponsored yesterday’s event with Visit Kent. 

“We hope to inspire our continental customers with new, attractive, local itineraries and to get them to take more trips using LeShuttle. We will be stepping up our work with Visit Kent and other local UK partners to achieve this, hopefully bringing more customers, more visits and more economic value to our beautiful local community.”

Nick Johannsen FLI, Director at the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) said: “Publication of this new plan and resources for local tourism and hospitality businesses are such positive steps forward for Kent and marks the start of a very important journey for the county. 

“With the Kent Downs AONB being a key target for visitors and the visitor economy – one of our key priorities is to ensure that experiencing, understanding and enjoying these beautiful landscapes whist having a positive impact on communities, the economy and environment, will support our plans to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark status. This is a plan for us all; we must all be ever increasingly ambitious in order to meet the challenges of accelerating climate and nature emergencies. The Kent Downs AONB partnership will continue to fully engage in and support the delivery of this plan.”