Most asked: Jo Williams, Sustainable Tourism Lead

August 30, 2018

Answers to questions about a particular area of work in the National Park – some sent in to our newsletter and others that we get asked all the time.

Answering this month is: Jo Williams, Sustainable Tourism Lead for the South Downs National Park

What does a Sustainable Tourism Lead actually do?

My job is never boring. I’m responsible for developing and delivering the National Park’s strategy for tourism which includes looking at trends, issues, impacts and opportunities. One day I might be commenting on a tourism-related planning application, the next I might be out advising a local business on how to make the most out of being based in the National Park.

I spend a lot of my time working with the many different organisations looking at developing tourism in the National Park, which includes: a UN-designated biosphere; the first designated Heritage Coast, three county councils, ten district councils and two city councils. We are also part of a tourism development programme, with other English National Parks, which aims to encourage more international visitors to think beyond London. This involves helping tourism providers to build ‘National Park experiences’ to help them access the overseas markets through the international travel trade.

How important is tourism for the National Park?

Tourism generates more than ten percent of the world’s jobs. The visitor economy in the National Park generates more than £350 million for our local economy and around 5,000 jobs. Our research from 2016 highlights that the National Park attracts around 19 million visits each year, not including local people using it for recreation.

What does sustainable actually mean?

That is a good question with quite a complex answer. ‘Sustainable’ and ‘sustainability’ mean different things in different sectors and to different groups of people. For us at the National Park, sustainable tourism is about making sure that people and the planet are as important as profit. We use the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas definition: ‘any form of development, management or tourist activity which ensures the long-term protection and preservation of natural, cultural and social resources and contributes in a positive and equitable manner to the economic development and well-being of individuals living, working or staying in protected areas.’(Europarc 2000)

Where can I get advice and help for my tourism business?

We have a host of information on our website to start you off, including links to research reports, planning policies, business advice, partner organisations and information on potential funding and planning. Support can range from free online listing opportunities to free cycle rack schemes (available on application and whilst stocks are available).

If you want to put the National Park at the heart your tourism offer, then we offer a free resource that includes high quality images, logos and graphics that you can use to affiliate your business with the National Park. We’re also piloting a new visitor-giving scheme to offer your customers an even greater connection to the National Park. For more details on visitor giving contact visitorgiving@southdownstrust.org.uk

There are many other organisations can help too from your local Destination Management Offices and local Councils to Local Enterprise Partnerships – look for partner links on our website. ADD LINK

What do you love about working in the National Park?

I am a camping addict and as part of this job I get to visit some of our amazing campsites ranging from wild campsites with tree pods to yurt filled forests. I’m also passionate about local food and drink and happily my job involves working with the people who produce it and looking at how we can help them link to the visitor economy. I get to visit a lot of beautiful vineyards, amazing farmers markets and local produce shops. It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it!

What’s the best place to visit in the National Park?

I can only talk about my personal favourites. I love going for long walks on the Downs, either at the back of Lewes to Black cap or around the Seven Sisters area, as it is close to where I live and on a hot day the kids love a paddle or a swim. Recently my family have been exploring Arun Valley around Amberley, Arundel and Pulborough, with stunning views, immersive museums, an RSPB visitor centre, Arundel Castle and plenty of local country pubs – that’s how to keep everyone happy at the weekend!