Visit Kent and Locate in Kent – the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) and inward investment agencies respectively for Kent and Medway – have today revealed interim results from a comprehensive study exploring the supply and demand for new hotel accommodation across the county.

More provisional insights from the research carried out by Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) over the summer, will be revealed at the AHC 2019 conference in Manchester ahead of a final report being published later this year. The work coincides with the identification by Locate in Kent of key strategic sites for potential hotel investment – from seafront properties and golf courses to heritage sites and film studios.

The review, which identifies the current gaps in Kent’s hotel provision will also look at the opportunities for future growth and support an ongoing drive by Visit Kent to increase levels of overnight stays for leisure and business travel in a county that has seen its leisure and business visitor economy soar by more than £1.2bn in the past decade.

Key interim findings from the research, include:

·         Zero availability of five star rated hotels in Kent

·         That while 77% of Kent is rural only 14% of serviced beds are located in rural areas

·         92 properties have more than 30 bedrooms but only 30 properties have over 100 bedrooms

In terms of performance in specific areas of Kent and Medway the 2017 Cambridge Model Economic Impact Study identifies Canterbury district as the lead destination for business bed nights per year (485,000) followed by Maidstone (301,000) and Thanet (236,000).

Canterbury - which includes Kent’s only city and coastal towns Whitstable and Herne Bay - also leads for holiday bed nights with over 1.4m stays per year followed by the coastal Folkestone and Hythe district (909,000) and Dover district (875,000).  Thanet – which includes hip Margate hosting this year’s Turner Prize exhibition – meanwhile saw Airbnb properties increase by 450% over the past three years - according to Airdna data - to meet the demand created by an 8.6% growth in visitors.

 Looking at the preliminary results from the research, David Curtis-Brignell, Deputy Chief Executive, Visit Kent said that this highlights the unmet demand for hotel

accommodation that when put together with the identification of key sites provided a unique calling card for the hotel industry to consider Kent and Medway.

“Kent has a strong visitor offer – 350 miles of coastline, countless world-famous heritage sites and events, and new high-end products such as the Wine Garden of England partnership.

“Our visitor economy has grown by over £1bn in the past decade. Our forward strategy centres around growing the quality and range of experiences to encourage visitors to spend more with local businesses and increase the number of overnight stays.”

Visit Kent has identified business travel, meetings and conferences as a growth sector that will deliver strong year-round occupancy.

“We recognise the need to provide quality accommodation at all levels and so we commissioned new research to assess the current and future supply and demand across Kent,” David added.

“The results show that there are clear growth hotspots across the county which present an opportunity to address the lack of quality serviced accommodation and higher capacity properties to provision in rural locations. This represents a clear opportunity for developers to look at Kent as a priority investment location.”

Gavin Cleary, Chief Executive Officer, Locate in Kent, said: “Kent is amongst the best-connected places in the UK, in close proximity to London and Europe and with an exciting offer for leisure and business visitors alike.”

“Having quality hotel accommodation near to some of the strategic sites we’ve identified at Locate in Kent is a win-win, for both business growth and hotel sector growth.

“What has emerged from the review carried out by Locate in Kent in close conjunction with local authorities across Kent is a range of different potential investment sites across a number of categories – from seafront properties in Margate and heritage sites in Canterbury to existing and new golf course sites. There’s now a real opportunity for investors to meet demand.

“Pipeline developments in Kent include the ambitious vision for The London Resort on the Swanscombe peninsula and exciting film studio proposals at the Newtown Works site in Ashford.

“Recent investments like Curious Brewery in Ashford and the staging of the 149th Open at Sandwich in 2020 demonstrates a continued commitment across Kent and Medway to providing a world-class visitor offer – and a thriving and diverse range of hotels and other serviced accommodation to support that.”

Visit Kent and Locate in Kent will be sharing all the county has to offer, including information on key sites and opportunities from Stand 16 at AHC2019, taking place 9 and 10 October at the Hilton Manchester, Deansgate, Manchester.

David Curtis-Brignell, Deputy Chief Executive, Visit Kent will also be taking part in a panel discussion at 11am on Thursday, 10 October alongside Richard Candy Partner, Head of Investor & Developer Services, EMEA Hospitality, Cushman & Wakefield Asli Kutlucan Senior Partner – Development & Acquisitions, Cycas Hospitality and Paul Needler Partner, Hotel Sector Leader, Arcadis

Breakout session: Belsize, Sky Rise or bargain Buys? What’s Your Development Strategy?

Your development strategy should be dictated by your spec sheet, target locations and brand parameters, right? But is it really that simple anymore? This vital session will help delegates to reignite their expansion plans by bringing them up to speed on development hot spots, key construction considerations, the latest on conversion/build options and how best to navigate the planning portal.