THERE ARE few things which have the power to arouse patriotism quite like the enduring beauty of England’s countryside.
And while it has long enjoyed its position as a source of great national pride, research has found the appeal of our rural areas has been overlooked compared to other international destinations such as the Grand Canyon and the Alps, with Britain currently ranked an overall 20th out of 50 countries for being “rich in natural beauty”.
But the Government and major tourism bodies are now looking to boost the rural tourism industry in areas including the North York Moors as well as the Scottish Highlands and the Lake District.
Tourism Minister Helen Grant and VisitBritain have launched the Countryside is GREAT campaign, designed to put rural areas firmly on the map as places to enjoy culture, quality food and world-class accommodation.
The three-year project, which aims to create 1,296 new jobs in the tourism industry and bring £70m to the UK economy, will target markets across the world through new websites, social media, in print and through newly-appointed brand ambassadors.
The chief executive of VisitBritain, Sally Balcombe, said: “We want to encourage our international visitors to experience more of Britain. Enjoying the beautiful landscape is one of the key drivers for holiday choice for international visitors second only to offering good value for money. Britain has stunning national parks and world heritage sites to rival our competitors but they are currently being overlooked by many of our overseas visitors.”
“We have some of the most outstanding areas of natural beauty in the world,” added Ms Grant. “This £3m campaign will champion rural Britain so that more tourists come and experience it for themselves.”
Yorkshire is set to feature heavily during the first year of the Countryside is GREAT campaign, which will focus on boosting the number of American and German tourists visiting UK beauty spots.
With 120,000 visitors in 2013, York remains the most popular destination in the region for overseas holiday visits, while Leeds attracts about 60,000 tourists per year and both Sheffield and Harrogate see approximately 20,000.
Yorkshire may see a higher proportion of holiday visits from people over the age of 45 than anywhere else in Britain, yet the fact that it is responsible for just two per cent of holiday visits to the UK shows how much potential remains untapped.
It is hoped that the “Tour de France effect” after the region staged the Grand Départ last summer will inspire a new wave of cycling tourism. Research conducted before the region hosted the world’s largest annual sporting event found that just two per cent of visitors from abroad say they would include cycling as an activity during a holiday to Yorkshire.
Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive, Gary Verity, said: “It’s always pleasing to see the light shone on our incredible Yorkshire countryside, which is the envy of many places around the world. Visitors can hop from dale to moor to coast in just an hour or two, making it particularly enticing for international visitors wanting to cram lots into their visit.
“Having seen the world’s greatest cyclists racing around the county during Le Tour, we’re sure many who saw those unforgettable and stunning images on their TV screens will want to come an experience our cycling terrain for themselves too.”