The figures are for activity prior to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic and are calculated for 2019, which was seven per cent up on 2018, when 2.9million visitors came to the district, a growth of five per cent (140,000 additional visitors) over the previous year.
Latest statistics reveal that the economic impact of tourism to North Kesteven increased in 2019 for the tenth consecutive year.
These figures reveal that since 2009 the number of people visiting, the number of days they stayed and the economic impact generated have risen. The self-catering sector in particular has seen continued expansion.
The industry-standard data from Global Tourism, released at the end of 2020, forms part of a national reporting scheme and shows that tourists enjoyed five per cent longer stays in the district.
North Kesteven also outperforms gains made by Lincolnshire overall with a greater increase in visitor numbers (up by five per cent in NK versus 2.2 per cent in Lincolnshire) and length of stay (up 5.2 per cent vs 2.6 per cent), as well as amount spent in local businesses (up seven per cent in NK vs 4.9 per cent in Lincolnshire).
This may partly be down to North Kesteven coming from a lower position, having historically been a less popular destination in the past than the Lincolnshire coast and Wolds or areas around Stamford.
Visits to Sleaford’s Navigation House rose by six per cent, while 76 per cent more people – 123,189 - paid a visit to the National Centre for Craft and Design.
Particular strengths of the visitor economy in North Kesteven, promoted by North Kesteven District Council under the Heart of Lincs banner, are aviation heritage, with the International Bomber Command Centre, Cranwell Aviation Heritage Museum and many other facilities focused around current and past aviation interest.
North Kesteven District Council Leader, Coun Richard Wright said: “2018 was a great year for Lincolnshire tourism, with the celebration of RAF100 and the opening of the International Bomber Command Centre, so to top the figures again in 2019 is a great achievement for North Kesteven.
“NKDC has worked hard to promote our district, launching the Heart of Lincolnshire brand to highlight the special places we have to offer. It’s gratifying to see those efforts reflected in these figures.
“Tourism was worth more than £162 million in 2019, and it supports not just our local hospitality and retail businesses, but our district’s growth overall. These figures really highlight the valuable impact that tourism has had over the last decade.
“While we won’t see 2020’s figures for several months, it won’t be a surprise that they will have dropped due to lockdowns and travel restrictions last year. But, there is cause for optimism: North Kesteven is clearly well-placed to bounce back with appealing visitor attractions and solid tourist infrastructure.
“The re-opening of Mrs Smith’s Cottage at Navenby and the refurbishment of the National Centre for Craft and Design in Sleaford mean we have a lot to shout about as restrictions ease throughout 2021.”
There are also signs that UK locations are rapidly taking bookings for holidays this year thanks to newfound optimism surrounding the covid-19 vaccines, whereas foreign travel is still uncertain for some months ahead.