Vital research into the future of a sector employing more than 65,000 people across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire has been commissioned, in a major study.

The Visitor Economy, including tourism, is one of D2N2’s eight key sectors; ones where the LEP area (Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire) has or could develop a competitive advantage.

Organisations including D2N2, the privae sector-led partnership promoting economic growth across the two counties; visitor economy groups Visit Nottinghamshire and Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire; and Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County, Derby City and Derbyshire County councils, commissioned experts Hotel Solutions to research the current state and possible future of visitor accommodation in the area.

Around 250 accommodation business owners – including of hotels, holiday cottages, touring caravan and camping sites, holiday lodge parks, outdoor education centres, youth hostels, and B&Bs – were interviewed. Peak District National Park Authority, major tourist sites and local authorities in the area were also consulted.

Researchers found more than 2,000 visitor accommodation businesses operating across the LEP area; managing 70,000 ‘bed spaces’, capable of providing almost 26million overnight stays annually.

Research documents – including an Executive Summary and Key Findings – can now be found on D2N2 web page www.d2n2lep.org/key-sectors/visitor-economy under heading ‘Promoting the Visitor Economy – Latest Activities’. The research will inform a plan of action for those involved with promoting the sector in the D2N2 LEP area, for the next three years (2017-2019).

Its findings included:

The LEP area of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire leads others in provision of ‘super’ cottages for larger groups, high quality caravan and camping sites, holiday lodge parks, youth hostels and outdoor education centres (particularly in the Derbyshire Peak District); with Nottinghamshire also benefiting from major visitor accommodation assets in its Center Parcs’ Sherwood Forest site and Warner Leisure Hotels’ Thoresby Hall Hotel.
But the two counties lag behind other destinations in developing sufficient branded boutique, budget boutique and lifestyle hotels in their cities; and in luxury and boutique country house and market town boutique hotels, boutique inns, B&Bs, holiday cottages and glamping provision.

There’s significant potential to develop more non-serviced – or self-catering – accommodation (holiday cottages, fishing lodges, eco lodges, caravan and camping sites, glamping, treehouses, etc); with businesses already providing such accommodation having to turn away potential guests because they are booked up. Opportunities in the D2N2 LEP area include the £400m Peak Resort holiday resort under construction, north-west of Chesterfield, and holiday lodge park proposals recently granted planning permission in the Sherwood Forest area.

Further scope for new budget hotels, with current ones again reporting having to turn away bookings during the week and weekends. Possible budget hotel development locations include Chesterfield, Buxton, Ashbourne, Matlock, Bakewell, Chapel-en-le-Frith, Belper, Ilkeston, Swadlincote, Long Eaton, West Bridgford, Beeston, Mansfield, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Newark, Retford, Worksop, and potentially Markham Vale.

Leisure-focused hotel sites – golf hotels, hotels with spas, and Warner Leisure Hotels ‘child free’ venues – also have growth potential. The £50m Buxton Crescent Hotel & Thermal Spa, Buxton (site pictured above) – co-funded by £2m from D2N2’s Local Growth Fund allocation – is currently being built. There is also the proposed £100m conversion of The Guildhall in Nottingham City Centre into a boutique hotel.
There is scope for a 3 star hotel on one of the new Mansfield and Ashfield business parks.

The new research study, which cost £30,000, recommends the following plan to help the sector:

Raise awareness of opportunities for visitor accommodation development sites; especially amongst local authorities, which often own land with untapped commercial potential (a possible source of useful income for them). Awareness should also be raised among rural funding agencies (including D2N2 itself and area LEADER projects), existing hotel and accommodation business owners (on the idea of local expansion), and land and property owners and property developers.

Promote a more flexible and positive planning framework for future developments. Use better research – including the D2N2 Visitor Accommodation strategy – to inform planning policy and development control officers about the opportunities such developments could bring to an area (jobs, supply chain benefits to local small firms).
Specific work needed to match potential development sites with hotel and visitor accommodation operators. During its research Hotel Solutions identified more than 40 sites in the LEP’s area which were strong possibilities for hotel and non-serviced visitor accommodation development, and spoke to 30 operators and developers interested in suitable sites.

Glamping is rapidly growing in popularity in the UK but has been slow to develop in the D2N2 area. The research showed expansion possibilities for this type of accommodation.
Greater attention needed in helping to develop pub accommodation; with extensions to existing pubs seen as a way of ensuring their commercial sustainability.
Cyclist-friendly accommodation development, particularly in the Derbyshire Peak District and Sherwood Forest area. Cycling visitors are a key focus for Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire as part of its ‘Growing and Developing the Visitor Economy Sector within Derbyshire’ programme; part-funded with £1.4m via D2N2’s European Union funding allocation.

Further surveys are needed of companies in areas with little or no hotel accommodation choice – the report identified Mansfield, Ilkeston, Belper and Swadlincote – to assess corporate demand for hotel accommodation in these locations.
David Ralph, Chief Executive of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “The new visitor accommodation study, commissioned by partners including D2N2, is a significant and timely piece of research.

“The Visitor Economy sector is a major local employer in cities and market towns, and we have terrific natural assets already attracting tourists such as the Peak District and Sherwood Forest. It makes sense for us to look afresh at how we can all help the sector develop new markets, better meet demand and crucially extend its ‘season’ to provide a more year round income for businesses.”

The new research study’s findings will be distributed widely amongst businesses and public sector partners, who will also be asked to help keep it updated and relevant, and put on the D2N2 website for business and public information. The study will also be used to inform the review of the D2N2 LEP’s wider Strategic Economic Plan; the long-term growth plan for its whole area, currently underway.

For more information on how the D2N2 LEP is helping the Visitor Economy sector, visit the website.