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Friday, 21 October 2011

Public urged to reconnect with local landscapes via groundbreaking new sustainable tourism initiative

A MAJOR new initiative urging people to reconnect with their local landscapes has been launched.

Our Land launch 1: (left to right) Rob Fairbanks (Surrey Hills AONB Director); Chris Reynolds (Independent Chairman of Kent Downs AONB); Jeremy Hunt MP (Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport); TV presenter Kate Humble; Nick Johannsen (Kent Downs AONB Director); Justin Francis (Managing Director of responsibletravel.com).
‘Our Land’ unites and celebrates the nine protected landscapes of South East England – the first time such a collaboration has been created – in a new central tourism website: www.our-land.co.uk (hosted by responsibletravel.com). The promotion of sustainable tourism businesses that have a passion and commitment to their local landscapes and communities lies at the core of the site.

More than a third of the South East is officially classified as Protected Landscape – this consists of the New Forest National Park and South Downs National Park, and seven Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): the Chilterns, Cotswolds, High Weald, Isle of Wight, Kent Downs, North Wessex Downs, and the Surrey Hills.

Employment in tourism in protected landscapes is around double the national average at almost 20%, and in some cases is much higher – on the Isle of Wight it accounts for 41%. Our Land aims to boost the vital revenue generated through tourism, whilst ensuring the long-term protection of the land by encouraging the public to recognise and rejoice in these diverse landscapes.

Visitors can use the new website to find and book their next holiday, browsing specific regions and accommodation preferences or by viewing suggested itineraries themed around seasons and activities, as well as reading about the sights, sounds and smells that make the different landscapes so distinct.

Social media elements allow people to share their experiences and to ask questions of the area to a panel of local experts; including historians, conservationists and walking and cycling experts.

Local businesses signing up to the scheme will benefit from free or discounted inclusion on the website, support developing their interaction with the landscape, and the promotional weight of the initiative. To qualify as partners, businesses must agree to the ‘Our Land Promise’ www.our-land.co.uk/copy/promise to offer authentic experiences that celebrate the cultural and natural history of the region, and they must demonstrate to visitors their commitment to the environment.

Supporters and partners

TV presenter Kate Humble is championing the new initiative and said: “In the UK we have some of the world’s most beautiful landscapes on our doorstep. Not only are these wonderful places to enjoy Britain’s nature at its best, they are also packed full of interesting stories of thousands of years of human life. There is a powerful, resurgent interest in re-discovering natural and cultural Britain and I congratulate the Our Land partners in aiming to capitalise on this in a responsible and sustainable way.”

New Forest National Park Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: “Much of the local economy depends on visitors, with 13.5 million visitor days each year to the New Forest. The attention to sustainable tourism that Our Land will give will help ensure that many more day visits are converted to overnight stays, while ensuring that the special qualities which attract people in the first place – the landscape, wildlife, culture and tranquillity - are conserved and enhanced. The Our Land initiative is vital in offering a unique type of truly sustainable tourism which will help the New Forest National Park thrive and prosper.”

James Berresford, CEO of Visit England, said: “Within the Strategic Framework for English Tourism the Rural Tourism Action Plan aims to significantly increase the economic benefits of tourism to local communities, and the Wise Growth Action Plan embeds the principles of balancing growth with sustainability across the industry. Our Land is a very good example of putting these strategic plans in to action. In time I hope it will develop beyond the South East.”

Justin Francis, MD, responsibletravel.com, said: “We have some of the most diverse landscapes on our doorstep but too many are unaware of the riches that can be less than an hour away by bus, bike or train. Our aim is to reconnect people that live in the South East with our shared heritage to ensure it is enjoyed, whilst being conserved for centuries to come.”

As well as working with local tourism businesses, Our Land will collaborate with membership organisations, transport providers and the media to promote the range of visitor attractions on offer in the protected landscapes.

Our Land has been made possible thanks to a £1m grant from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), to be spent over the next 2.5 years, after which it is intended the model will continue to prosper commercially and be available as a template for other protected landscapes across the country. Our Land is being managed by the South East Protected Landscapes (SEPL) forum, made up of representatives of the nine landscapes, and is being given web, marketing and brand support by the project’s private partner, sustainable tourism leader, responsibletravel.com


1 comment:

  1. The amount of litter and dog mess that now covers the New Forest is both disgusting and disgraceful. I do not recall this as being a major problem until the last two or three years which may be coincidental with it attaining National Park status.

    Why this was needed after the best part of a 1,000 years of local stewardship I know not. Obviously London knows best....

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