Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme
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- Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme
The Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme (VERP) is a new £1.64 million programme of activity, led by OxLEP to assist the recovery of Oxfordshire’s visitor economy.
The visitor economy – comprising retail, tourism, leisure, arts, culture and heritage – is a vital component of Oxfordshire’s economy and supports good health and wellbeing for local communities as well as visitors.
Pre-Covid 19, Oxfordshire had a thriving visitor economy which attracted 30 million visitors a year generating £2.5 billion for the local economy and supporting 40,000 jobs. It’s the largest employer of women, provides vital employment and apprenticeship opportunities for young people, offers flexible employment opportunities and provides a route back into work for people seeking to return to employment having had long-term health matters.
This programme, which is being supported through funding secured by OxLEP via the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund, aims to back the sector’s ongoing re-emergence from Covid-19 through a variety of positive interventions allowing the strengthening of the sector post-pandemic, as well as maintaining and retaining consumer confidence for the industry.
The programme links directly to the Oxfordshire COVID-19 Economic Recovery Plan (ERP), which is the comprehensive and co-ordinated whole system economic route map response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The interventions in the wider proposal take forward key priorities set out in the ERP, following consultation with industry and partners, and longer-term strategic ambitions previously identified in the Local Industrial Strategy.
A key aim of the programme is to ‘attract visitors and ensure that Oxford and Oxfordshire maintain its position as one of the UK’s most desirable visitor destinations for local, national, and international visitors, with a focus on attracting value from all visitors and encouraging green and sustainable tourism and practices’, whilst being mindful to continue to reduce the risk of Covid-19 transmission linked to the visitor economy, through measures to enable residents and visitors to be and to feel safe.
Key elements of the programme that will be delivered by March 2024 include:
- Strategic marketing campaigns to be delivered by both Experience Oxfordshire and Cotswolds Tourism Destination Management Organisations (DMOs)
- Rebuilding market share and confidence of Oxfordshire as a Covid-safe destination
- Improve business competitiveness via the Visitor Economy Grants scheme and Growth Hub-led business support and digital skills training
- Support for a virtual conference desk to reattract high value business visitors
- Strengthening sector leadership and co-ordination and development of a Visitor Economy Vision and Action Plan for the next few years
A tourism task group will act as an advisory group for the programme, reporting back regularly to OxLEP’s Culture and Visitor Economy Sub-Group.
The campaign being delivered by Experience Oxfordshire is 'Only in Oxfordshire' and can be accessed via the Experience Oxfordshire website.
The campaign being delivered by the Cotswolds Destination Management Organisation can be accessed via their website.
The visitor economy grant scheme is being led by OxLEP and aims to back the sector’s ongoing re-emergence from Covid-19 through a variety of positive interventions, with the scheme providing funds to eligible businesses, with grants ranging from £5,000 to £24,999 per business.
Funding for this scheme was secured by OxLEP via the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund.
One funding round opened in October 2022 with a second round expected in April 2023, should funds still be available.