Agenda item

Draft Tourism & Heritage Strategy

Minutes:

The Committee were presented with the draft Tourism and Heritage Strategy for Gravesham.

 

The Town Twinning & Tourism Manager advised Members that they had seen the first draft and the Strategy was still a work in progress; key points were highlighted from the report regarding the future of tourism in Gravesham, the benefits of the Reef redevelopment and the changing attitudes of people having staycations due to Covid-19. The next step for the development of the Strategy will be for the Town Twinning & Tourism Manager to further engage with Gravesham’s tourism and heritage partners.

 

The Assistant Director (Communities) and the Town Twinning & Tourism Manager fielded questions from the Committee and explained that:

 

·         The announcement that the Eurostar would no longer stop at Ebbsfleet and Ashford stations was very disappointing as it was a key part of the Strategy in terms of expanding access to Gravesham from London. However the high speed train to St Pancras was still in place and a number of parties had been championing the area to the Government in order to reinstate Ebbsfleet as a station in the route. It was difficult to predict the impact to tourist numbers but figures could be attained on arrivals and departures at Ebbsfleet to give Members a rough idea

·         With regards to impact on cruise liners, the Town Twinning & Tourism Manager had built up an excellent working relationship with the cruise liners. They had been encouraged to come to Gravesend but it was not currently known how Covid-19 would affect their future. River transport from Gravesend to London was still an aim for the Town and the Assistant Director (Communities) reported that the Council was in dialogue with partners on that matter

·         Gravesham had a stronger relationship with the Port of London Authority than the City of London Corporation; the PLA had a strong vision for the future of the Thames which included Gravesend as the PLA were based in the Town

·         The figures in the report around the number of visitors to Gravesend was gathered through the Councils partnership with Visit Kent and through the Cambridge Model which looked at local statistics (accommodation, transport, number of attractions and total visits to attractions) and then calculated the results from that evidence using an algorithm

 

With regard to the Eurostar route, the Chair added that there was cross party Member support for the route and representation had been made at KCC and Parliament for the route to extend to Ebbsfleet and Ashford.

 

Several suggestions were put forward by the Committee for inclusion in the Strategy:

 

·         Windmill Hill was a great asset to the Borough that went largely unnoticed; the hill provided extraordinary views over Gravesend and the Thames. A viewing platform or similar structure could be built atop the hill alongside a café/coffee kiosk in order to attract tourists to that area and provide something different than other Towns had on offer

·         Additional permanent attractions along Gravesend waterfront to rival what was offered at the Strand in Medway

·         Greater emphasis should be placed upon the heritage surrounding Pocahontas’ history in Gravesend and her statue in St Georges Church

·         Gravesend should be made more attractive to incoming ships and modes of river transport travelling along the Thames; the image of Gravesend had to be enhanced to maintain  interest from the river

·         When gathering figures for visitation to Gravesend, residents should be spoken too as well so that the results were not only gathered from computer algorithms; it was felt that feedback from residents would make the results more balanced

·         It was suggested that the website required further development, possibly funded by section 106 monies, to advertise more of the heritage within Gravesend and offer virtual tours of visitor points and historical parts of the Town. By including more content on the website it would attract more internet traffic to the website and then encourage more visitors to then make a trip to Gravesend to see the advertised attractions/heritage areas etc

·         An outlet centre built within Gravesham would drive up tourism numbers 

 

The Assistant Director (Communities) advised that promotion of the Town was important and Visit Gravesend and Discover Gravesham websites both held relevant information about Gravesend and its heritage. The Section 106 monies may be difficult to use for development of the Council website as there was a lot of competing demand on that funding and getting any of that money diverted towards tourism was difficult. Members were assured that the team would look at other activities that revolved around culture and arts within Gravesend as it would be a key driver for people to visit Gravesend in the future both locally and from afar.

 

The Assistant Director (Communities) thanked Members for their feedback which would be taken under advisement for inclusion in the Strategy.

 

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