In a year when UK staycations are expected to soar in popularity, Medway has revealed that its bid to be UK City of Culture in 2025 will provide a much-needed boost to local tourism and promote the area as a major cultural destination in the South East.
With the winner of the national competition due to be announced in Spring 2022, Medway’s bid is working with organisations of all sizes across the visitor economy sector to plan how Medway would benefit from the once-in-a-generation boost the title would give Medway and wider Kent.. The opportunity is especially timely as the local population emerges from the pandemic, with the tourism and hospitality sectors having been hit particularly hard. Medway’s bid will play a key role in the recovery of Medway and Kent’s visitor economy.
Deirdre Wells OBE, CEO of Visit Kent and Co-Chair of Medway’s 2025 UK City of Culture bid, comments: “This is an incredibly important opportunity for the county. It’s no secret that tourism and hospitality businesses across Medway and Kent have been extremely hard hit by the pandemic and Medway’s City of Culture bid will create a legacy of opportunities across the area and grow Medway’s reputation as a creative destination for tourists. The exciting plans for Estuary 2021 demonstrate the level of ambition which Medway has to create amazing and engaging culture and to reach new audiences. Medway has been welcoming people for centuries – from the dockyard workers who built our maritime heritage to the Royal Engineers who defended our country; our Cathedral which has opened its doors to worshippers, visitors and even Moon-gazers alike; and our designers who from fashion to video games, from textiles to technology have chosen Medway as THE place to get creative. No wonder that Dickens made his home here – the characters and the stories that have built Medway are the foundations for our ambition to build a vibrant and creative community which will make Medway a great place to live and a fantastic destination to visit”.
According to Visit Kent’s most recent Economic Impact of Tourism report, Medway welcomed 5 million visitors in 2019. 4.4 million of these were day visitors seeking a taste of Medway’s unique history and burgeoning culture scene. The report also revealed that Medway’s visitor economy sector accounted for 6,972 jobs across the area.
The Medway 2025 bid expects to increase these figures even further. Coventry, the current title holder as UK City of Culture 2021, is already benefitting from a significant rise in its reputation as a key tourist destination since the start of its City of Culture year in May. Hull, which was UK City of Culture in 2017, reported that the title had a huge impact on their visitor economy. With:
- At least £300 million projected value of tourism in 2017
- Over 6 million projected total visits to Hull in 2017 alone
- Average hotel occupancy increased by 10.5%
- Nearly 800 new jobs in creative and visitor economy sectors over 2013-16
Bringing the UK City of Culture title to this end of the country would see people from across the country and continent visiting Medway to be part of the year-long programme of cultural events held throughout Medway’s towns, villages, and peninsula. The increase in footfall will benefit local business, including small-scale tourism outlets such as hotels and larger attractions across the region.
From the Dockyard, the castles, historic ships and volunteer-led heritage spaces to the Cathedral and Medway’s green spaces and high streets, Medway’s 2025 plans encompass every location the area has to offer to add more vibrancy to streets and spaces for visitors and residents alike. The bid also highlights the abundant culture-led tourism on offer in Medway, with new ways to explore the area such as photography walking tours and dining experiences.
Richard Morsley, CEO at Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, comments: “You can really see the effect City of Culture had on tourism in Hull in 2017 and there is already such an exciting buzz coming from Coventry, which has just launched its City of Culture year. Here at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, we know that Medway has so much to offer visitors through our world-class heritage and cultural attractions. Being City of Culture in 2025 will enhance this even further, providing unparalleled experiences to our visitors and transforming our visitor economy. It will boost Medway’s visibility as a destination, driving national and international visitation, bringing inward investment and supporting job creation. Medway City of Culture 2025 will provide new opportunities for residents, students and businesses across Medway and Kent.”
Businesses across the tourism and visitor economy sector are encouraged to become Bid Business Ambassadors to join in the conversation about how they hope to benefit from Medway’s plans.
Wendy Hannam, Director of Sales at Bridgewood Manor Hotel, comments: “Everyone here at Bridgewood Manor Hotel is very much backing the Medway 2025 bid. We truly believe our local area has so much going for it and we would love for more people to experience the inspiring creativity and strong community spirit that surrounds us. Bringing the title to this end of the country for the first time would have a huge impact on businesses across the area, especially for hotels such as ourselves. You can see what a transformative effect UK City of Culture had on Hull in 2017 and we would love to bring a slice of that action to Medway and Kent!”