Welcoming the new Minister, Sandra Matthews-Marsh MBE, chairman of the Symposium organisers, The Tourism Society, and chief executive of Visit Kent (pictured left) said: “We really appreciate the Minister for making the Tourism Symposium her first official engagement in her new role. As a Kent MP, the Minister is well versed in her knowledge of UK tourism and has been very supportive of the industry in the past. We are all looking forward to working closely with her and sincerely hope that she stays in post for the next five years!”
Responding the Minister told the gathering: “I am pleased to make my first ministerial speech at the Tourism Symposium in my home county, surrounded by many friends and colleagues from the UK industry.”
Over 240 delegates representing businesses throughout Britain together with leading industry professionals attended the event which had as its theme – ‘Connecting to the Future’.
High profile speakers included Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chairman Arts Council England; Steven Norris, former Transport Minister and Celebrity Chef and Broadcaster Rosemary Shrager.
Wayne Hemingway, HemingwayDesign and Eddie Kemsley, of Dreamland Margate shared with delegates some of their plans for the rebirth of Margate’s latest attraction. The first phase is scheduled for launch on June 19 and is expected to feature 19 rides and a recreation of the scenic railway, damaged by fire in 2008, plus a host of other other entertainment attractions.
Hemingway said that the new high speed rail link to Ashford and the establishment of Turner Contemporary meant culture had come to Kent. Both would contribute towards making Margate a go to destination this year and in years to come.
At Dreamland they were building an ‘old fashioned but oh so fashionable brand’. Referring to the new team of staff – some 250 people will be employed at the attraction – he said they were independent, quirky and the more tattoos and piercings that you saw the better. “If they scare granny and grandma – good!” he added.
He hoped that Dreamland, a popular destination for East Londoners in the 1960’s and 70’s would attract a new crowd of young creatives but would also appeal to more mature visitors in shoulder periods.
Delegates also heard about another major new attraction opening in Ebbsfleet, Kent in 2020 – London Paramount Entertainment. The new £2billion development will occupy a 400 acres site near Ebbsfleet International Station, on the banks of the Thames and is expected to attract up to 15 million visitors a year.
Executive Director, Fenlon Dunphy told the Symposium that agreements had already been made with BBC Worldwide, Aardman Animations and the British Film Insititute. “The theme will be the best of Hollywood meets the best of British,” he said. There would be 50-60 attractions and 5,000 hotel rooms on site creating an attraction, which will be on a par with Disneyland Paris.
Among a series of panel discussions on various topics affecting the tourism industry the Symposium also hosted a debate on the ‘Future for Transport in Britain.’
Former Transport Minister Steven Norris chaired the session with a panel comprising Stephen Joseph OBE, CEO Campaign for Better Transport; Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, Tim Waggott, CEO at Port of Dover and David Statham, MD at Southeastern.
Steven Norris invited the panel to suggest what they would ask for if they were granted five minutes with the Secretary of State for Transport. There was unanimous agreement that transport needed to be more joined up.
“The Local Sustainable Transport Fund has helped; let’s have some more. Connectivity is everyone’s holy grail,” said Stephen Joseph, Chief Executive of the Campaign for Better Transport.
Tim Waggott, Port of Dover, who earlier in the discussion said they would be opposing a vote to leave the EU in the forthcoming referendum, said if granted an audience, they would push for a third Thames crossing.
The Tourism Symposium was hosted by Visit Kent in partnership with Ashford Borough Council, and arranged by The Tourism Society. It was supported by VisitBritain, UKinbound, Arts Council England, Southeastern and the Coach Tourism Council.