HS1 impact on Kent’s visitor economy

New reports reveals High Speed One’s impact on Kent’s £3.6bn visitor economy

  • HS1 adds £311million to the Kent visitor economy since services began
  • Leisure journeys on HS1 have increased from 100,000 (2010) to 890,000 (2016)
  • 73% of Kent tourism businesses believe HS1 has attracted more leisure visitors to the county
  • Nearly 6,000 tourism sector jobs in Kent have been created and supported by HS1
  • Kent’s visitor economy has grown by £1bn since 2003

Kent’s high-speed rail link to London helped to add more than £311million to the local visitor economy, a new report by Visit Kent has found.

HS1 Ltd, the company that owns and operates High Speed 1 (HS1), has released the findings of the new wave of consumer research by Visit Kent and Destination Research Ltd, which shows the full extent of the rail line’s contribution to the last decade of growth for the Kent visitor economy.

Since 2010, leisure journeys to Kent via HS1 have increased almost nine-fold from 100,000 to 890,000 in 2016, with almost of third of Kent visitors citing HS1 as having influenced their decision to choose the county. Almost half (47%) of all rail visitors to Kent travelled via the HS1 service.

For every leisure journey made in 2016, £81.65 was added to the local economy – a total of £72.7million last year. The total economic impact of HS1 on the visitor economy since domestic high speed rail services launched in 2007, has been £311m.

HS1’s activity has also led to the creation and support of 5,766 tourism sector jobs in Kent, and almost three quarters (73%) of tourism businesses in Kent believe that leisure tourism in the county has increased as a result of HS1.

The findings further demonstrate the steady growth of Kent’s visitor economy over the last decade, and the full economic impact of ongoing investment in leisure and tourism. Kent’s visitor economy is now worth £3.6bn, with the county welcoming more than 60million visitors in 2015.

Jonathan Neame, Chairman of the county’s destination management organisation Visit Kent, said: “We were pleased to produce this report in partnership with HS1, and to be able to clearly show the direct value of leisure journeys on the wider economy.

“HS1 and the availability of high speed rail connections to London has played a huge role in our county’s growth, as our tourism businesses have said themselves. Many organisations continue to work together to create a single strategy for tourism that helps stimulate ongoing investment in transport, accommodation and attractions so that Kent’s visitor economy continues to thrive.”

HS1 opened in November 2007, with domestic services beginning in 2009. The report was commissioned by HS1 to mark the ten-year anniversary of the rail line running from St. Pancras International to the Channel Tunnel, and was produced by Visit Kent in partnership with Destination Research Ltd

The research was conducted over a four-month period, using train path statistics as well as data gathered from tourists and Kent businesses, to understand the true impact of HS1 on the visitor economy.

Kent is now recognised as one of the Europe’s top tourism destinations, having been voted the best family destinations by Lonely Planet in 2015. The county’s high-speed rail links to London and Europe are frequently cited as a big selling point to domestic staycationers and international tourists.

Paul Carter, Leader Kent County Council said:

“This report articulates the very clear link between investment in infrastructure and growth. As a major gateway county it is essential that Kent continues to have high quality transport links and this report highlights this as a key reason for people to choose Kent as a destination. With the planned improvements in other parts of our rail network we will see more tourism, more investment and more major events such as the Open Golf Tournament in 2020.”

Dyan Crowther, CEO of HS1 said:

“Growth in the number of passengers using the line is well-documented, but this report shines a light on the role HS1 is playing in supporting Kent’s tourism economy. While the line is more frequently used by commuters, it is clear that it has played a huge role in making Kent one of the most popular destinations in the country and Europe. HS1 is still a young line and what has been achieved to date has been done in a relatively short period of time and we are excited about its impact growing in the coming years.”