Tourism figures for district

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Horsham District Council is to look at proposals to boost the district’s tourism economy through its arts, heritage and improved online marketing.

The district has experienced success in increasing visitor numbers, most recently for the Diamond Jubliee when attractions included former bus routes running across the South Downs and music, markets and other activities in Horsham town centre.

The most up-to-date figures show the business turnover of the tourism industry in the district is more than £168m.

On Thursday July 19 the cabinet will meet to look at a report outlining the district’s cultural and heritage profile, indicating that visitors to the area already make a significant contribution to the economy, through the provision of jobs and services.

The report looks at four key areas to drive the tourism: arts, heritage and history, landscape and countryside and natural history.

Jonathan Chowen cabinet member for arts, heritage and leisure and joint author of the report, said: “The district has, over many years, developed a strong arts, cultural and heritage offer.

“This success is due in part to the fact that the council has invested heavily in the provision of a good quality of cultural assets, including Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, The Capitol and Southwater Country Park, as well as its high quality natural environment.

“This view is supported by the recent quality of life survey carried out by Experian UK, on behalf of the Sunday Times newspaper, which ranked the Horsham district the fifth best place to live out of the 324 local authority areas in England.

“The Horsham District has many hidden gems of historic interest, including some of the oldest medieval church paintings in the country.

“Through researching those areas that have already capitalised on their cultural heritage and working in partnership with local stakeholders on development and marketing, the district has potential to be developed as a cultural and heritage centre in the south, creating recognition and pride amongst our residents, developing brand identities for the district and creating jobs through new business establishments and starts ups.”

Further development of the visitor economy has the potential to support an increase in the value of the visitor economy for the district in partnership with businesses, the community and other stakeholders.

Roger Paterson cabinet member for the local economy said: “Economic development is one of the priorities in the council’s District Plan and is an important element of economic development locally.

“Research by Tourism South East for the Horsham district in 2010 indicates that business turnover in the tourism industry is in excess of £168m, which accounts for around five per cent of all the jobs across the district.

“An alternative source from the Office of National Statistics puts tourism related jobs in the district even higher at 8.8 per cent, which equates to some 4,400 jobs.

“Horsham District Council has an enabling role to play, working with communities and businesses to develop and promote the cultural offer in order to increase the volume and spend of the day visitor and the short stay visitor wherever there is capacity and infrastructure to cope.”

At the meeting at 6pm on Thursday at the council’s Horsham offices, councillors will be asked to agree that the visitor economy, through its cultural and heritage profile, is to be promoted through a powerful and market driven web presence. A new member advisory group will be set up to help guide this work.