At the end of last month, I had the privilege of opening the Shipwrights Way, a new 60-mile pathway running through Hampshire from Alice Holt Forest down to Portsmouth.
The pathway, which is open to walkers, cyclists and horseriders, is a wonderful way for those of us who live in Hampshire to enjoy the tremendous scenery.
Commuters will also benefit from the route and the newly-resurfaced paths.
Of equal value, however, is the opportunity for inbound tourism that the Shipwrights Way offers with its network of cycle paths and footpaths, traditional English scenery, great pubs, seven rail stations, B&Bs and cycle hire facilities.
Tourism is a key industry in Hampshire. It is the most visited county in the south east and the sixth most visited county in the UK, with £2.3bn being spent by visitors to Hampshire in 2010. The total value to the county, though, was closer to £2.7bn including induced expenditure.
In the same year, 60,500 individuals were employed in tourism-related roles in Hampshire, 9.2 per cent of the county’s employment.
Half of overnight visits to Hampshire are for leisure purposes, with the New Forest being the most popular destination for domestic overnight stays. This shows a real appetite for ‘green’ tourism.
Local green accommodation schemes have already been set up in the New Forest and in Winchester, allowing local businesses to promote themselves as being environmentally-friendly.
These schemes act as the first step for those businesses who then wish to be accredited with the national Green Tourism Business Scheme, which considers measures such as water and energy consumption.
There are currently 28 businesses in Hampshire which have been accredited, with 10 holding the top gold award.
It is important we continue to utilise the opportunities for tourism on our doorstep, as the Shipwrights Way has, and share the beautiful surroundings of Hampshire with those from farther afield.