James Heappey MP celebrated English Tourism Week by visiting some of the best local visitor attractions and accommodation – and was accompanied on his tour by Visit Somerset Chairman Hugh Cornwell.
Mr Heappey started his day at the Bishop’s Palace in Wells, seeing the result of recent restoration work and new additions to the gardens. He also heard about future plans for improving the visitor experience.
From Wells, Mr Heappey headed to Brean, where he checked on progress at Unity Farm’s £4million Country Club development.
After then travelling to Edithmead to visit Rookery Manor Hotel, and hearing about their rapidly growing events business, Mr Heappey then visited the Cheddar Cheese Company, and experienced their visitor-friendly cheese factory, as well as joining tourists in the shop tasting delicious Cheddar cheese.
The last stop was the Petruth Paddocks ‘Free Range’ campsite, where Mr Heappey discussed their vision for fun, sustainable camping holidays and ideas for helping Cheddar to become the gateway to the Mendips and a major centre for outdoor pursuits.
Mr Heappey said: “Tourism Week is one of my favourite weeks because when I am in the constituency, I just visit as many tourism businesses as I can. “The tourism sector in Somerset is so important and we are doing very well. Visitor numbers are growing year on year, which is great. But, it is my view that we can get more from the visitor economy if we learn to market ourselves properly.
“For too long, Somerset has been the drive-through county on the way to the far South West and we need to do more to show that we have a huge amount to offer here.”
Hugh Cornwell, Visit Somerset Chairman, said: “Somerset is a quintessentially English county, embraced by its residents and its visitors for the history and beauty of its varied landscape of hills and marshland, of its ancient towns and villages.
“Those who welcome visitors to Somerset are equally varied; from individuals offering AirBnB accommodation to companies specialising in facilities for caravanners; from self-employed activity instructors to volunteer guides in stately homes; from trainee apprentices in hospitality to highly celebrated chefs; all managers and their staff in sales, accounts and operations in every kind of business from transport to tourism, from conservation to catering, from retail to recreation.
“Tourism Week marks the start of the Season and I’d like to wish everyone, including our visitors but especially those who look after them, a happy and fulfilling time in ‘the home of the summer people.’”