News that tourism in Lincolnshire was worth £1.34 billion last year has provided me with plenty of food for thought.
The sector has grown by 33% since 2010 and now supports more than 39,000 jobs.
I am sure the massive attractions of the Poppies Wave and the Magna Carta at Lincoln Castle will be responsible for some of the surge, but the last set of figures I saw showed that South Kesteven was third in the Lincolnshire tourism league table behind the coastal area and the county’s only city.
A popular tourism offer has a huge impact both in terms of helping our local economy and creating jobs.
That’s why I was interested to learn about the Grantham Designer Village Outlet proposal which sees itself as a tourist destination.
There is a long way to go with this idea - no application for planning permission has been received yet – but the suggestion that an attraction like this could bring 3.5 million visitors a year is something for us all to think about.
The council as a whole is working harder than ever to spread the word about what we’ve got to offer and we are currently reviewing our marketing literature and working on totally new websites for our market towns of Grantham, Stamford, Bourne and The Deepings.
It’s going to mean a lot of work but we think it will be worth it to make sure that when people come to our district they know they are visiting somewhere really special.
Grantham’s biggest claim is to our link to our most famous son – Sir Isaac Newton – whose statue sits on St Peter’s Hill and whose life and work we celebrated again just last month in our third Gravity Fields Festival.
The event was a record breaker and audience and participation figures just released show that more than 68,000 either attended or took part in the five-day festival – an increase of 3,000 on the 2014 figure and a massive 45,000 increase on the inaugural event in 2012.
We’re expecting the independent economic impact figures for the event to be here shortly and I hope to be able to report more good news very soon.
In Stamford we have the most complete stone town in England where we host our Georgian Festival, in Market Deeping we are supporting a new literary festival to be held for the first time next year, and Bourne will be forever associated with British Racing Motors.
And if visitors want to linger a little longer they could pull in a show at the Meres in Grantham which has recently hosted Brendan Cole of TV’s Strictly Come Dancing fame, comedians Jimmy Carr and Bill Bailey, singer Lulu, and Elaine Paige who is most famous for her role as Eva Peron in Evita.
Taking in a show may well mean that visitors want to stay overnight and if they do that is no problem. The next day they can take a trip to Belton House – the National Trust property right on our doorstep that attracted a record-breaking 400,000 visitors last year after becoming a year-round attraction thanks to the fact that it is now not only a fantastic Grade 1 listed country house with an amazing 35 acre garden, but it now also has a great adventure playground for the kids.
And if that’s not enough we also have Burghley – England’s greatest Elizabethan House - just down the road.
It’s a great package and because people can get to us easily either by train or by road thanks to the A1 we will be working hard to make sure we get our share of the tourism market which is forecast to be worth an enormous £3.4bn by 2020.