Wealden District Council

The Wealden countryside is our biggest asset

Media Release : 02 May 2017

Wealden’s biggest attractions are its countryside, heritage and scenery – that is the conclusion from visitor research carried out by NGI Solutions, a business research company.

High Weald skyline

Tourism brings in some £250 million a year to the District and provides jobs for 7,000 local people, the Wealden Do Tourism conference at Herstmonceux Castle were told.
When visitors were asked what they liked about the District, they said it was the ability to walk and take the landscape around them.
“People love what is here,” said NGI consultant Ian Thomas. “They do not want to see huge development which is going to spoil it. They want to make the most of the assets that are here.”
Some 75% of the visitors came on day trips, and most came from within 90 minutes driving distance:
“There is a huge potential in growing the over-night market so we ensure people stay longer and come from further afield.”
To encourage them, they need to know more about other activities and attractions that were available in the area, Mr Thomas said. People mainly learnt of the attractions of visiting Wealden via word of mouth from friends and family, but social media was becoming increasingly influential in attracting visitors.
A key part of the conference, which was attended by over 50 local tourism businesses, was to encourage a more focused approach aimed at identifying and attracting specific groups of visitors and promoting the range of other activities that would suit them. Although the majority of visitors to the District are aged 45 years and over, the conference learned of the growing popularity of wine tourism which is attracting younger, high–spending visitors from London.
“Sussex is the largest wine growing region in the country,” said Jamie Everitt, chief operations manager for the Rathfinny Vineyard in Alfriston. “We are attracting visitors who are interested in good food and wine and are finding Wealden has a very big larder. This is a new type of customer.”
Typically wine tourism involves visits to two or more local vineyards, overnight accommodation and an evening meal in a local gastro pub.
Tourism’s contribution to the East Sussex economy has increased by 38% over the last 10 years and was worth over £1.4 billion in 2015. It employs 30,500 people across the county. The seaside remains the most popular place for overnight stays in East Sussex accounting for 56% of overnight stays. Staying in villages and countryside accounted for 21% of the overnight stays in East Sussex. 
The Wealden do the Best Attractions  tourist guide can be downloaded from the Tourism page on the  Wealden Website. For day-by-day details of local events and visitor attractions, visit the Wealden do Sussex website.
The 2017 Wealden Tourism Conference was held at Herstmonceux Castle on 30 March. A list of the vineyards in Wealden can be found on the Wealden webpage- search under vineyards.