Green growth in The National Forest

Ambitious plans to drive continued growth in the tourism sector were launched in the National Forest this week.

Tourism in the Forest already supports more than 4,700 jobs, attracts more than 7.8 million visitors a year and contributes £376m to the local economy. The Forest’s new Tourism Growth Plan builds on 25 years of successful partnership working, and outlines strategies to further strengthen and grow sustainable tourism in the Forest.

The ambition is to increase visitor spending by at least 15% and create and sustain over 700 new jobs.

James Berresford, former CEO of VisitEngland and National Forest tourism champion, formally launched the ten-year Plan. He said: “The National Forest has always embodied a clear and pragmatic vision. It was never a ready-made destination but has built a distinctive sense of place and optimism through genuine and fruitful partnerships. The Forest takes a sensible bottom-up approach and protects and enhances the environment as well as promoting growth.

“The new Tourism Growth Plan expresses the National Forest’s aspirations to be at the cutting edge of innovation and sustainability in rural tourism. During my time working in the tourism sector I have seen the National Forest build a reputation for offering a range of attractions, activities and places to stay, as one of the UK’s most accessible woodland destinations. The next ten years will move the Forest from an emerging destination into an established one. This Plan is about the wise growth of tourism, and stimulating a cycle of investment to enable the Forest to thrive as a destination.”

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, said: “The Growth Plan has been produced by the National Forest Company but it is for the whole Forest. It needs tourism businesses, local authorities, landowners, communities and everyone who has an interest in forest life to share its ambition. First and foremost, this means looking after the Forest. It is a unique asset and we want visitors and tourism businesses to value it as much as we do.”

He continued: “The next 25 years is all about leading with our brand. This will be reflected in the way we do business, what we choose to invest in and how we work together. The Plan highlights opportunities to create a very special woodland place, developing distinctive visitor experiences that bring our brand to life for our target markets and communicating what makes the Forest extraordinary. New investment opportunities for green growth include new Forest-related attractions, additional high-quality accommodation in a woodland setting, and events and festivals that harness the appeal of the National Forest.”

The first expression of the Plan will be to develop a new Forest Festival, a four day festival which will bring visitors and communities together for an awe-inspiring celebration of the transformational impact of the National Forest.

The Growth Plan launch event was hosted by Field and Forest Weddings in Yoxall, Staffordshire, who work with Peak Tipis to provide a unique wedding celebration experience within the National Forest.

Dave Garner, co-owner of Field and Forest Weddings, also opens the woodlands to the public each spring as Lodge Hill Bluebells. He is one of a number of businesses already working with the National Forest Company and supporting the Tourism Growth Plan.

Dave said: “As a growing business in the National Forest, we are delighted to be working closely with the National Forest Company. We share completely the same values: we want do something positive for the community and the environment and by doing so we will build a successful business. We’ve planted trees through one of their schemes, we have an active woodland management plan and we welcome visitors to enjoy our woodlands each spring for the annual bluebell festival. More recently we have grown our business to make best use of our magnificent setting to offer stunning woodland weddings and outdoor events.”

The Tourism Growth Plan is available on the National Forest website