The Discover England Fund is a three-year staged fund from 2016-19 announced by the UK Government as part of last year’s spending review.
It has been set up to build ‘world-class’ tourism products and experiences that cater to the needs and aspirations of international visitors to boost inbound spend across England, and also benefit the domestic tourism market.
VisitEngland has today released the bidding criteria for the fund’s first year, which is calling on applications for projects up to £250,000, which can be completed by 31 March 2017. Destinations and businesses of all sizes are urged to submit bids.
Inbound tourism is one of England’s most successful export industries but also one of the most globally competitive, according to VisitEngland/VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, she said:
“Tourism is a major job creator and latest figures show that visitors are coming here in record-breaking numbers. However it is also a fiercely competitive global industry.
“To fight for our market share and stay competitive in this fast-moving, fast-growing industry we need to be able to offer world-class tourism products to the right customers at the right time. By converting aspiration to visit into bookings we can drive more visitors across England, ultimately spreading the economic benefits of tourism across all our regions,” she said.
The fund would “tackle head-on” some of the challenges facing English tourism. How tourists choose and book their holidays is changing. Visitors from traditional tourism markets are demanding new experiences and places to explore, with some of the strongest growth coming from markets that do not know much about England, or which might have different travel expectations and requirements.
Ms Balcombe said that the fund would also tackle challenges in getting more international visitors out exploring England.
“While London continues to have global appeal with more than half of international visitor spend in London, there are a wealth of attractions for visitors to enjoy beyond the capital.
“Our transport connections don’t always make this exploration easy, and customers now expect to book online, use distributors and comparison websites, and see availability at short notice, so we need to be tech and digitally savvy as an industry to keep ahead,” she said.
Tourism Minister David Evennett said:
“England has so much to offer tourists, from our stunning countryside to historic buildings and vibrant cities, and yet many international visitors never travel further than London.
"The Discover England Fund will help develop exciting new experiences and trips for tourists to enjoy across the regions and make sure the whole country can share the economic benefits from our booming tourism industry."
Generating about £106 billion annually for the English economy and employing more than two million people, tourism creates jobs and economic growth across England. Latest figures show that domestic overnight trips taken in England grew by 11% in 2015. Inbound visits showed strong regional growth in the first nine months of 2015, up 23% in the North-East, 12% in the North-West and up 6% in the South-West for example. England has also seen record tourism spend in the past year from domestic and international visitors.
See www.discoverenglandfund.org for more information.