Tourism minister John Penrose celebrated the countdown to London 2012 with a whistle-stop tour of the Peak District and Derbyshire to witness the vital role that the industry plays in sustaining and stimulating the area’s economy.
Mr Penrose visited the area yesterday on Monday, August 22, at the invitation of official tourist board Visit Peak District & Derbyshire and some of its key public and private sector partners to see at first-hand the current and future challenges and opportunities they face.
With the launch of London’s Olympic Games just under 12 months away, he travelled by train to one of the area’s major public transport gateways at Chesterfield Station for a whirlwind visit and summit meeting with some of local tourism’s leading players – including tourist board Chairman Andrew Pugh and Derbyshire County Council Leader Andrew Lewer.
Mr Penrose began his day with a tour of Chatsworth, followed by an informal fact-finding lunch there – including an overview of the tourist board’s current and future activities and plans from David Thornton, its Head of Marketing and Deputy Chief Executive.
Afternoon highlights included a visit to thriving cycle hire and café business Hassop Station and a half-hour ride on electric bikes on the Monsal Trail, where four former railway tunnels have recently re-opened to create a continuous, traffic-free eight-and-a-half-mile link from Bakewell to Wyedale, south of Buxton.
Mr. Penrose then visited the Peak District Mining Museum at Matlock Bath, a private company that also operates Matlock Bath tourist information centre, took a cable car to savour some spectacular views of the Derwent Valley at the Heights of Abraham and called in at The Cables, a four-star rated B&B at Matlock Bath.
He rounded off his visit with an evening reception attended by guests from the private sector at premier, multi- award-winning East Lodge Hotel and Restaurant at Rowsley and stayed there overnight before travelling over to Staffordshire – one of the Visit Peak District & Derbyshire’s strategic public sector partners – for a second day’s tour.
“Both the Peak District and Derbyshire are beautiful destinations that offer a fantastic range of attractions to their visitors,” said Mr. Penrose. “I’m pleased to see the private and public sectors working so closely together to encourage growth and inspire more people to visit the region. One of the key points of our tourism policy is to encourage destination management organisations and tourism bodies to be more effective and strongly business-focused, and it’s great to see this in action on the ground.”
Added David Thornton: “It was a genuine pleasure to welcome Mr. Penrose to the Peak District and Derbyshire to see for himself the successful way the public and private sectors are working closely together to ensure that tourism – and all those who depend on it for their livelihoods - prospers, both now and in the future.
“Our industry is an essential element in the economic health and regeneration of both the local area and the region – for example, in Derbyshire it is currently generates more than £1.5 billion per annum, brings in around 36 million visitors a year and supports more than 25,000 jobs.
“It is particularly appropriate that he has come here with just a year to go until the Olympics, as we, like other tourist boards, are keen to maximise the opportunities that the Games offer to reinforce Britain’s role as a world-class destination to an international audience, through our work with both VisitEngland and VisitBritain.
“I hope that Mr. Penrose and the Government will continue to recognise the need to fund high-performing public and private tourism partnerships that deliver outstanding returns on investment, such as our own.
“Our two main marketing campaigns in 2010 brought in between £64 and £66 for every pound we spent on them, and with the Government’s help we can build on that achievement to help grow the economy in the Peak District and Derbyshire, England and Britain into 2012 and beyond.”
Andrew Lewer said: “From the County Council’s perspective, it was a useful opportunity to underline to Mr Penrose just how seriously we take tourism, and how keen we are that he and his department provide us with the right kind of support to take this work forward, notwithstanding the difficult financial circumstances we are dealing with in the public sector.”