Discover England Fund open for bids

The three-year £40 million Discover England Fund, announced by Government last year, will ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry, by offering world-class English tourism products to the right customers at the right time.

In year one the fund will focus on:

  • Smaller-scale quick-win projects and pilots that meet customer demand and test new product or new ways of joining up and distributing existing product
  • Research to build understanding of customers, markets and product gaps
  • Seed funding to build bids for years 2 and 3.

VisitEngland is now calling for bids from destinations and businesses of all sizes who want to be the first to set how they can use this money to deliver bookable product that appeals to international visitors. This investment would also be expected to benefit the domestic market.

The fund will support the growth of one of England’s most successful export industries, inbound tourism. Tourism is an industry that delivers jobs and economic growth across the English regions - generating £106 billion a year and employing over 2 million people, with a strong domestic market. England has seen record tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors. The number of domestic overnight trips taken in England grew by 11% in 2015 while inbound visits have shown strong regional growth in the first nine months of 2015 – plus 23% to North East, plus 12% to the North West and plus 6% to the South West for example.

To continue to achieve such growth is not without its challenges, as the way customers choose and book their holidays changes. More and more destinations recognise the strong growth potential of inbound tourism so that our customers from traditional markets see new places to explore, while the strongest growth comes from markets that do not know much about England and may have different expectations. London continues to have global appeal and be an easy sell, but we need to ensure that visitors explore all of England and experience the wealth of attractions that we offer – at the moment 54% of international visitor spend is in London. Our transport connections don’t make this exploration easy – we know that international visitors are nervous of driving on the ‘wrong side’ of the road. And of course customers now expect to book online, use distributors and comparison websites, and see availability even at short notice – so we need to be tech and digitally savvy as an industry to stay ahead of the curve.

The Discover England Fund will tackle these challenges head on.

For year one, applications for funding of up £250,000 will be considered for projects to be delivered by 31 March 2017. Bids should show collaboration across businesses and sectors or join up product effectively to make a compelling offer for visitors to access and book, either direct or via intermediaries. Projects that make it easier for visitors to travel around the country, as well as digital and technical solutions that respond to trends and consumer demands will also be considered.

Bids will be reviewed in monthly cycles from 31 May, with successful submissions from the May round being announced in July 2016. So you are encouraged to submit your bid as soon as possible. Full details on how and when to apply, guidance and criteria, and other support material is available online under www.discoverenglandfund.org

The LEP Network anticipates that they will ask for expressions of interest for longer-term projects (Years 2 and 3, to be delivered by 31 March 2018 and 31 March 2019) from July – October 2016.