New Research Shows Promising Recovery for White Cliffs Country's Tourism Industry from 2020 to 2021

Dover castle aerial

The value of Dover district’s visitor economy increased to £201 million in 2021, up 79% on 2020

Visit Kent’s latest Economic Impact Model for 2021 published today shows promising signs of early recovery for White Cliffs Country’s tourism industry, showing the value of Dover district’s visitor economy increasing to £201 million, a 79% growth from 2020, with four million combined day and overnight trips being undertaken in the area in 2021. Independent research commissioned by Visit Kent on behalf of district council partners has revealed that £13 million was spent on average in the local economy each month in 2021, as a direct result of the region’s tourism and hospitality industry.

The number of tourism jobs across the district also increased by 32% between 2020 to 2021, to 4,522 accounting for 15% of total employment in White Cliffs Country last year, despite the Government furlough scheme finishing in September 2021.

These latest figures provide the first look at the rebuild and recovery of White Cliffs Country’s tourism and hospitality sector during 2021. Using the industry-respected Cambridge Economic Impact Model, the study measured the volume and value of tourism within the county in 2021, and the effect of visits and visitor expenditure on the local economy throughout this tumultuous period. England entered its third national lockdown on 6th January 2021 and began the four Step roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions, which only formally ended in July 2021. The Government then also announced the ‘Plan B’ measures in December 2021 following the rise of the Omicron variant.

While the tourism and hospitality picture remained challenging throughout the region in 2021, these latest findings do show that the Dover District Visitor Economy 2021 performed above the national average across several areas. The overall results show that White Cliffs Country benefited from extremely high levels of domestic tourism spending – against a nationally projected 64% growth on 2020, Dover district’s domestic tourism spend increased by 103% on 2020 levels, generating £48.9 million in 2021. When looking specifically at trip purpose, White Cliffs Country benefited from a high proportion of domestic leisure tourism, with 68% of domestic overnight trips being for holiday purposes in 2021.

The proportion of those travelling to visit friends and relatives (VFR) in White Cliffs Country during 2021 also accounted for 33% of all overnight trips (overseas and domestic). This demonstrates the incredible influence that ongoing support from Kent’s residents – who acted as ambassadors for their county, welcoming friends, and family to experience it first-hand – had on local businesses during a hugely difficult year.

Cllr Trevor Bartlett, Leader of Dover District Council, said: “This independent research shows encouraging news for the district’s tourism industry following several difficult years. It demonstrates that the district has a great offer for both domestic and international visitors, well connected to the rest of the UK and mainland Europe, and with world-class attractions.

“It is also a sign that our strategy to rebuild our visitor economy is working as the district reaps the rewards of new leisure-based investments, such as the Whitemills Wake & Aqua Park in Sandwich, Roman Landings Adventure Golf in Walmer, the Port of Dover’s Marina Curve, and the revamped Market Square in Dover.

“As the only UK destination to feature in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2022 Guide, Kent’s Heritage Coast and White Cliffs Country is on a strong wave of recovery and is gaining real traction from hosting major events such as The Open in 2021, and our attendance at last year’s World Travel Market.”          

Visit Kent Chief Executive, Deirdre Wells OBE, said: “After our sector was devastated by the Covid-19 crisis throughout 2020, it is encouraging to see the results for 2021 which show vast improvement across all areas of the visitor economy, demonstrating the resilience and hard work of White Cliffs Country’s brilliant tourism, leisure, and hospitality sector during what was still a chaotic and uncertain time.

“The results show that whilst footfall was not yet back to 2019 levels, the vast increase in domestic visitors and more people staying overnight is extremely encouraging. We are delighted that our domestic overnight tourism spending was far above the projected UK national average, indicative of the strong tourism product in Kent that appealed to consumers. The findings around the importance of local spend, and VFR demonstrates that Kent’s residents continue to be the biggest advocates for our industry.”

Deirdre continued: “We have an exciting year ahead – we’ll be running an international business events campaign in January, showcasing businesses’ purpose-built event spaces as in-person meetings and ‘away days’ properly return, hosting 20 leading tour operators in Kent to further drive our recovery, and joining with coastal destinations across the UK to celebrate the Year of the Coast 2023. It is also clear there is a huge appetite for domestic stays in the county, so we’ll working to bring more hotel accommodation to support demand. Thanks to incredible collaborations with partners across White Cliffs County, we’re confident that we can continue to build a vibrant, sustainable, and resilient industry for the future, together.”

To access the full Dover district Tourism Economic Impact Study 2021 report, along with a selection of district-specific reports, please visit:

For more information about White Cliffs Country, please visit:

For more information regarding White Cliffs Country and the district’s Tourism & Visitor Economy please visit Welcome ( (consumer) or Industry Hub ( (business), Facebook (

 Twitter ( or Instagram (


 For further media information on Dover District Council and images please contact Communications Manager, Kevin Charles, at

 For further media information on White Cliffs Country and images please contact Visitor Marketing & Communications Officer, Sam Stanley, at

 For further media information on Visit Kent and images please contact Senior PR and Content Executive, Alex Valentine, at

About White Cliffs Country

White Cliffs Country (Dover District Council) is the Destination Management & Marketing Organisation for Dover District (including the character towns of Deal, Dover, Sandwich and wider environs).

Focused upon the five strategic pillars of ideas, people, place, business environment and infrastructure, White Cliffs Country targets domestic and international markets to raise the district’s profile as a ‘great place to visit, invest, live, work and learn’, improving experience, engagement, quality and skills within the industry, and growing investment in tourism. White Cliffs Country works with local, county, regional and national partners and industry groups.

White Cliffs Country also runs, in partnership with Dover Museum, the White Cliffs Country Visitor Information Centre (based at Dover Museum), as well as the Visitor Welcome Desk for Kent’s Cruise Partnership (based at Dover Cruise Port).

For further information visit Welcome ( (consumer) or Industry Hub ( (business), Facebook (, Twitter ( or Instagram (

About Visit Kent

Visit Kent Ltd is the Destination Management Organisation for Kent (the Garden of England).

It is recognised as one of the country’s leading DMOs, targeting UK and overseas markets to raise Kent’s profile as a premier destination, improving quality and skills within the industry, and growing investment in tourism. Visit Kent is a public/private sector partnership supported by Kent County Council, Medway Council, district and borough councils, and the leading sector tourism businesses in Kent.

For further information visit (consumer) or (business), or tweet @visitkent.

About the Cambridge Economic Impact Model

The figures were derived using the Cambridge Economic Impact Model undertaken by Sergi Jarques at Destination Research on behalf of Visit Kent. The Cambridge Economic Impact Model is an industry respected tool for measuring the economic impact of tourism in a given area. It utilises information from national tourism surveys and regional/local data (e.g., accommodation stock, domestic and inbound trips) of the level of tourism activity within a given local area.

Please note that all figures in the research reports have been rounded, therefore there might be marginal discrepancies in subtotals and totals.

It is estimated that 2,368 actual jobs are supported by Bluewater, raising the total employment in that area to 6,019, or 10% of all employment in Dartford. Whilst it contributes to Kent’s visitor economy, the shopping and retail nature of the destination must be taken into consideration.

Posted on 13 December 2022

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