A new head of visitor economy has been appointed by South Kesteven District Council in a move to boost tourism.
Andrew Norman has joined InvestSK - the council’s new inward investment arm - as its head of the visitor economy, tasked with promoting the district to tourists and other visitors.
He said: “My job is to raise the profile of South Kesteven, to bring visitors to the area. Visitors are often perceived to be from overseas but can include visitors from Stamford coming to Grantham and vice versa. It’s about bringing people in to see what’s here.
Andrew has looked after visitor attractions for 25 years, with his last role as chief executive of the Rockingham Castle estate, winning regional and national recognition for the quality of its visitor experience.
During his tenure Rockingham Castle became a significant and successful visitor attraction.
Numbers significantly increased with the introduction of visitor focused events, the most important of which was Rockingham International Horse Trials which now attracts world class horses and riders from some 20 countries.
Before that, he was castle manager at Belvoir Castle and has held roles as a board member for Discover Rutland, chairman of Corby Visitor Forum and Explore Northamptonshire and a board member of Northamptonshire Enterprise.
Andrew said: “I have spent many years running visitor attractions so I come to the role with experience and an empathetic understanding for those working in the industry.
“My focus now is on getting to know every corner of this beautiful area, meet as many as possible of the excellent people working so hard to attract visitors and find ways for us to work together.”
Andrew was born and bred in Edinburgh, with previous roles including being an estate agent in London and Surrey and two years in the Army, which saw a six-month tour of Northern Ireland.
He continued: “You tend not to go out and see what’s on your doorstep. Grantham has amazing places, buildings and people. There is potential for walking routes around the town and to explore our rural villages, churches and pubs. We have excellent pubs.”
South Kesteven also has easy cycling and walking, and Lincolnshire is celebrating the RAF Centenary this year.
Andrew’s appointment coincides with the publication of the district’s new 2018 Visitor Guide, featuring attractions and accommodation and a feature on September’s Gravity Fields Festival in Grantham.
It’s available from Tourist Information Centres in Grantham and Stamford and online from www.southwestlincs.com
“It’s not all about Stamford. If you are prepared to get in your car and put your boots on, there’s so much to enjoy. This area has so much to offer but it’s an area not good at selling itself. I hope we can reverse that and see the place as positive.”
Just weeks into the job, Andrew, who lives in Kilvington, near Bottesford, has been doing research to present a plan to InvestSK later this month.
He says it’s too early to say much about budgets and projects but tasks will include revamping the Southwestlincolnshire.co.uk website, working with Visit Lincolnshire and Visit England as well as attending major trade fairs to make sure the tourism industry knows of South Kesteven’s delights such as Belton House.
There will be further promotions on social media and Andrew says he is keen for “buy in” from those working in the district’s tourism sector. He is keen for visitor attractions, shops, B&B operators and others to contact him to have their say.
“It’s about adding impetus to what we are doing. We are trying to help the small business on the ground to do better- help their profile, social media, marketing. We want to create a brand. South Kesteven is not a recognised location. A brand would become the forward-facing image of the area.
“We also need to look at signage on the A1; it’s very intermittent. We need proper signage telling people what there is. And out of the brand, I hope we become a destination.”
South Kesteven District Council estimates that the district enjoys some £130 million a year of benefits accruing from tourists and other visitors.
The father-of-two said: “It’s very easy to look and not see the benefits of visitors. But they help small businesses pay their rates. With attractions people will want to work in an area. For businesses thinking about moving here, after considering housing, schools and shopping, they will ask themselves ‘what can we do with the children on Saturday?’ and ‘Can we fish?’ It’s also just as relevant to those that live here what there is to do.”
And keen to get cracking, Andrew adds: “We need to have a good offer, a well-stocked high street and variety. If we have an attractive high street, people will come in.”
Cabinet member for retail and visitor economy Nick Robins (Con) said: “We are delighted to have appointed Andrew to this new role. It demonstrates a firm commitment by the council to further promote the excellent visitor offer that we have.
“This appointment fits with our inward investment and development agenda. The visitor economy is very significant to South Kesteven and contributes more than £130m a year to the district’s economy.
“An increase in visitors will directly benefit the many businesses relying on people coming through their doors.”