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Tourism Businesses in The National Forest Look to an Ambitious Future

Friday, 10th March 2017

Ambitious plans to drive continued growth in the tourism sector were announced at The National Forest Tourism Business Forum at Calke Abbey in Derbyshire this week.

Over 120 people representing tourism businesses throughout the 200 square miles of The National Forest attended the event to celebrate the achievements of the first 25 years of The National Forest and the development of a vibrant visitor economy.

Achievements include a 16% growth in visitor numbers to the Forest since 2003 (the year figures were first recorded).

“The overall theme of the Forum was growth and collaboration,” said John Everitt, Chief Executive for the National Forest Company (NFC). “Many of the partners attending the event were the very same who had taken a great leap of faith in supporting The National Forest in the early days. The event was a wonderful opportunity to reflect and celebrate the fantastic achievements so far and share the vision for where we go next.”

Michele Grant, Director of Blue Sail, the organisation that worked with the NFC to develop the National Forest Tourism Growth Plan, introduced the Plan and outlined the opportunities it will create for tourism businesses and all those involved in this important sector. She explained the importance of all businesses helping to express and harness the ‘personality’ of the Forest, this “special woodland place”.

She said: “Everyone can benefit from this. The ambition for the Growth Plan is to grow visitor spend by 15% and to create and sustain over 700 new jobs in the visitor market over the next ten years, bringing the total to just under 5,500.”

Richard Drakeley, Tourism Development Manager for the NFC, introduced the #forestlife campaign. He said: “By aligning businesses within the Forest and outside the boundary more closely with The National Forest brand, everyone can benefit as we develop the distinctiveness of the Forest. Visitors come here to feel reconnected to the landscape and to each other, to discover fun have-a-go activities, find a new place to pursue their hobbies in a woodland setting and surprising challenges to enjoy with their friends and families. What’s more, they do not have to travel to the ends of the country to find it: we have over 10 million people within 90 minutes’ drive of the Forest – it’s a perfect place for a short break or day out for many, many people.”

John Everitt added: “We want to use business activity to grow the Forest: our businesses are a vital part of what we are trying to achieve here. We promote responsible development that brings with it sustainable benefits, this is absolutely fundamental to our way of working.

“The Tourism Growth Plan highlights opportunities to build on the successes of the Forest in its first quarter century including new Forest-related attractions, more accommodation in a woodland setting, and themed events and festivals. By working together we can achieve the ambition set out in the National Forest Tourism Growth Plan and continue to develop this fantastic destination.”

As well as picking up lots of facts and figures, delegates valued the opportunity to network and share best practice. It was also encouraging to see established businesses sharing their knowledge and tips for success with newcomers to the industry.

Resources from the day are available at www.visitnationalforest.co.uk/industry

The National Forest Tourism Business Forum was supported by lead sponsor and National Forest print distribution partner, Pear Communications, together with support from East Staffordshire Borough Council, North West Leicestershire District Council and South Derbyshire District Council.