EXPERIENCE Project - Provides opportunities for businesses and extends the season for visitors in Swale

Swale Borough Council and Visit Swale  are delighted to be supporting the EXPERIENCE project working with project partners Visit Kent, the Kent Downs AONB and the North Downs Way National Trail over the next few years. The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and aims to bring 20m visitors to the 6 pilot regions across the UK and France including Kent.

The aim is to promote sustainable tourism, support local businesses, increase off-peak visitation and showcase all the incredible heritage, culture and beautiful countryside we have in Swale and across Kent, to help to re-start our visitor economy.

As part of this project we’ll be working with the Kent Downs AONB team to develop brand new experiences and itineraries that connect countryside businesses with our public rights of way, improve infrastructure and accessibility into the countryside as well as highlighting the wonderful trails and nearby attractions we have. The recently launched #findyourspace campaign encourages you to share your favourite outdoor space and to sign-up to find out more about the below 10 experience themes so you can stay up to date with the latest news and look forward to visiting when restrictions allow.

  • Food & Drink - Discover new tastes and treats from wonderful artisans across the county.
  • Wellbeing - Escape for some rest and relaxation in some of Kent's most beautiful places.
  • Outdoor Activities - Blow away the cobwebs in our gorgeous woodlands, grasslands and coastline.
  • Wildlife & Animals - Learn more about the nature and animals around you, perfect for little and big ones!
  • Inspirational Journeys - Follow our guides to visit Kent's best views, hidden gems and secret history.
  • Family Fun - Reconnect with the outdoors and your favourite people with family focussed activities.
  • Arts & Crafts - Find your inner artist and share in the passion and knowledge of local experts.
  • Farming & Nature - Visit a local farm, boost your nature knowledge, learn new skills and make memories.
  • Pilgrimage - Tread in the footsteps of Pilgrims as we take you on a journey of self-discovery.
  • Culture & Heritage - Learn about Kent's heritage and visit some of the iconic locations that shaped our county.

In the short-term the project team will be sharing suggestions for walks, cycles or horse-rides on your doorstep and showcasing some of the incredible views, businesses and attractions that we hope you will be able to visit soon in the coming months.

There are also opportunities for new and existing businesses with both Visit Kent and Kent Downs AONB who are offering free training, support and promotional opportunities for those selected. The Visit Kent programme is open to all tourism businesses in Kent, with any type of experience idea and already has limited places available on the programme.

The recently launched Kent Downs Countryside programme welcomes applications until Friday March 5th, from rural tourism business in the Kent Downs AONB or along the North Downs Way who want to build experiences based on the landscape, wildlife or rural life and culture.

Find out more by emailing Business Development and Engagement Manager Rebecca.rees@kentdowns.org.uk.

So if you or someone you know is looking for something new, loves the outdoors or has a countryside business that needs help attracting walkers and cyclists then please get in touch with the Kent Downs AONB team.

We're also launching a new grant scheme that will be open to businesses that:

1) operate in the Kent Downs, or within 5km of the North Downs Way

2) have been accepted on either the Kent Downs or Visit Kent Experience Development Programmes

3) demonstrate an affiliation with the landscape.

Applications will be open from 29th March with two decision deadlines - 30th April and 28th May and you'll find out if you've been successful within 2 weeks of the end date. So if you need help to purchase equipment to start your new experience please message the project team via the website.

More useful EXPERIENCE project links and videos:

Consumer #findyourspace landing page - https://www.kentdowns.org.uk/findyourspace/

Business landing page - https://www.kentdowns.org.uk/our-projects/experiencebusiness/

Countryside Experience Development Programme - https://www.kentdowns.org.uk/our-projects/experiencedevelopmentprogramme/