Businesses have been urged to tap into the tourism market after figures indicate it was worth over £180m in 2010 to the local economy.
The call to everyone associated with local tourism in the Epping Forest district – from visitor attractions, sporting facilities, restaurants, festivals and events was answered on 31 January when more than 80 delegates attended the district’s first-ever tourism workshop.
Representatives from every sector of the industry met with key policy makers from the district and neighbouring local authorities to plan the future of the tourism on offer in Epping Forest.
Delegates heard from speakers setting out the current value of this sector to the local economy in terms of income and jobs and forecasts of how this might grow. Individual members of the One Epping Forest Tourism Taskforce including the Corporation of London and Epping Ongar Railway set out what they thought the key opportunities were for the district before all the delegates broke into workshops to come up with the key components of a longer-term development plan.
Chairman of the Epping Forest District Tourism Development Taskforce Councillor Tony Boyce said: “I am really impressed with the large number of colleagues from the business, voluntary and government sector who turned out today for this important event. Clearly Tourism is already a significant contributor to the economy of the district worth over £180m in 2010 but today delegates were clear that we had opportunities to bring in even more. In terms of the future, lots of new ideas were put forward, it was clear that we need a mechanism for enabling all elements of the sector to work better together and to co-ordinate promoting the whole district as well as individual attractions. I think we all know that Epping Forest district is an absolutely lovely place with bags and bags of tourism potential. Our job is to unlock fully that potential.”
Councillor Tony Boyce continued: “The Taskforce’s key emphasis is on ‘doing’. For starters, we have developed www.visiteppingforest.org to promote what the area has to offer. We are also producing a promotional leaflet, collectively promoting ourselves at trade fairs and exploring other joint working opportunities. Going forward we want and need the input of all providers locally. It is clear that our partners believe there is massive untapped potential for inward investment and jobs through greater promotion of tourism across the district.”
Councillor Chris Whitbread, Leader of Epping Forest District Council and Chairman of One Epping Forest was delighted with the response to the tourism summit. Having lived in the Epping area all his life, Chris said: “It always surprises me how much Epping Forest district has to offer. From rafting at the Lee Valley White Water Centre in Waltham Abbey to our historic towns and of course the green open spaces of our beautiful Forest and the Lea Valley Regional Park, there is so much on offer for visitors to our district.”
He added: “Tourism is very important to our area. We need to build upon the Olympic legacy, the opportunities of the Tour de France coming to our area in 2014 and the canoeing world championships at the White Water Centre in 2015. We look forward to welcoming more and more visitors to our local area.”