Winchester conference attracts tourism heavyweights

Top chef, writer and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will be the guest of honour at a tourism conference being hosted by Winchester City Council on Wednesday 3 July.

Following last week’s planning decision to allow the iconic Abbey Mill building in Winchester to be developed as a River Cottage Canteen, Hugh will take to the stage to share his business ethos and plans for Winchester with delegates. It is the first time that he will meet the business community and speak about his plans locally.

The conference, which is open to Destination Management Partnership members, fledgling tourism businesses and BID members, will start with a ‘state-of-the-nation’ address from Chief Executive of Visit England, James Berresford. Visit England is the national tourism body which advises Government on tourism policy issues, and is responsible for marketing England to the domestic visitor market.

Also on the agenda is Gary Fletcher, the Chief Executive of Forest Holidays, the company that has developed and operates the new eco-lodge holiday park in Blackwood in Micheldever which opened in May. They will be joined by the Regional Director of the Country Business and Land Association, Robin Edwards.

In an interview with Cllr Robert Humby, Deputy Leader of Winchester City Council, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall will answer questions about the reasons he chose Winchester for his new restaurant, the importance he places on sourcing local seasonal produce, and how strong links between the city and rural areas of a visitor destination are key to economic resilience.

Ellen Simpson, Head of Tourism at Winchester City Council, said:

We established our Destination Management Partnership two years ago following suggestions from tourism businesses at a previous conference. At that time, they asked us to make more of the rural product on our doorstep and this has led to partnership working with a variety of authorities and agencies to cross-promote two destinations - Winchester and the Hampshire Area of the South Downs National Park. Following further consultation with our businesses in recent weeks, this conference will take a look at the considerable successes of the past two years – delivered due to the support we have from the dynamic local tourism sector – and focus on building our future strategy together.

Cllr Rob Humby, who is the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development and who is chairing the event, said:

Winchester’s tourism economy is now worth £292m and continues to grow. Winchester City Council founded a destination management partnership in 2011 with Tourism South East, East Hampshire District Council and the South Downs National Park so we could provide support to tourism businesses in a more joined-up way. The fifth and most critical member of this partnership is the private sector, the businesses who work with us throughout the year to drive this important sector of the local economy forward.

The conversation is happening all year round through regular meetings and discussions, but this conference is a chance to get everyone together – attractions, restaurants, accommodation providers, tour operators and start-up businesses - to hear their views on how we shape our future plans.

Rob Greacen, Managing Director of River Cottage Canteen & Deli, added:

We were delighted that permission has been approved for Abbey Mill. River Cottage has a strong commitment to promoting the best produce available in the Winchester area, and we are looking forward to meeting the businesses with whom we hope to have a long and fruitful partnership in the future. Hugh is looking forward to attending the conference.

Places at the conference must be booked in advance. If you run a tourism business or are looking to establish one in or around Winchester or East Hampshire and would like to attend the conference please contact Sarah Harfield on 01962 848 180 or call Winchester Tourist Information Centre on 01962 840 500.