Winchester makes the most of ‘stay at home’ culture

Press Release: 27/07/2009

Winchester High Street

As more and more Brits make the decision to holiday at home this summer, Winchester City Council is ensuring the city is looking its best and encouraging visitors to find new ways to enjoy the district’s attractions.

Annual travel trends show that British tourists made fewer visits abroad last year, beginning a trend of ‘staycationing’, or holidaying at home, as a result of the credit crunch. A recent Local Government Association statement revealed that this trend is likely to continue, with 5 million people who went overseas for their summer holidays in 2008 considering staying in the UK in 2009.

To see if this trend is reflected locally, Winchester City Council’s tourism team has carried out a poll asking Hampshire residents about staying at home this summer. 77% of those surveyed replied positively to the question “Will you be spending more time holidaying in and around Winchester this summer”, with many respondents saying they would not be going abroad during 2009.

A survey of visitors to Winchester carried out by Tourism South East in 2008 found that there were already high levels of satisfaction with the visitor experience, which includes the general atmosphere, feeling of welcome, the tourist information centre and the upkeep of parks and open spaces.  In fact, 97% of visitors said they would recommend a visit to Winchester to a friend.  However, the city is not resting on its laurels and visitors to Winchester this year will be pleasantly surprised by the many improvements that have been taking place of late.

These include the complete refurbishment of three key facilities for visitors: the tourist information centre, the Abbey Gardens toilets and Tower Street Car Park.  April saw the installation of a stunning new art commission in Parchment Street - a sculpture featuring a joyful figure strolling over a bridge five metres high, flying a traditional ‘parchment’ kite.  The council has worked with the Winchester Business Improvement District (BID) to bring increased floral decorations to the city centre throughout the summer.  And it doesn’t stop there - work is due to start on resurfacing Winchester High Street this September, which will include the replacement of all the old pedestrian signposts.

The tourism service is also rolling out a series of developments intended to refresh Winchester’s marketing image, welcome new visitors and provide ideas to encourage people to stay for longer in the district. The popular tourism website www.visitwinchester.co.uk is being modernised for August, introducing new features like online booking and an itinerary planner. The district even has its own Twitter presence now at www.twitter.com/king_alf, run by PR agency Flagship Consulting on behalf of the successful tourism consortium Discover Winchester: ‘king alf’ is publicising the district’s events and attractions to over 200 regular followers, and the number is set to keep on growing. New, interlinked trails for cricket lovers and Jane Austen fans are also available – featuring dedicated websites at www.cricketingwinchester.co.uk and www.winchesteraustentrail.co.uk. And Bishop’s Waltham is set to be the third market town to have its own business sponsored Pocket Guide, following the success of similar publications for Alresford and Wickham.

Alison Woods, Winchester City Council’s Tourist Information Centre Manager, said, “Why not stay local this summer and make the most of the many special events taking place through out the city, from early Friday evening entertainment throughout the summer to the annual Heritage Weekend Days in September? To find out what Winchester has to offer, pop into the tourist information centre at the bottom end of the High Street and re-discover what makes Winchester special for you. You can also pick up your free copy of the Pocket Guide with discount vouchers worth over £30.”

Winchester City Council’s Leader who holds the portfolio for economy and tourism, Cllr George Beckett, said, “As a Council we have made every effort to support local business during the current downturn. This programme of practical initiatives in support of the tourism sector should help us make the most of the opportunities presented by the global financial situation.  I hope that all our residents will invite family and friends to visit the Winchester District this year to rediscover why it is the perfect tourist destination.”

The tourist information centre is open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 4pm on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays.  It can be contacted on tel 01962 840 500, e-mail tourism@winchester.gov.uk or via the website at www.visitwinchester.co.uk.  We look forward to welcoming you very soon!