In advance of The AHC this October, we spoke to David Curtis-Brignell, Deputy Chief Executive, Visit Kent and Gavin Cleary, CEO, Locate in Kent. Both are huge advocates of Kent as a vibrant leisure destination and prosperous business centre and are taking active steps to ensure this message is spread far and wide.

The AHC: Set the scene for us. What is the main objective of Visit Kent and Locate in Kent and the key activities currently being worked on to achieve this?

David Curtis-Brignell (D C-B): “In 2017 there were 65 million visitors to Kent. Only 5 million of those stayed overnight. One of the major aims of Visit Kent is to increase overnight stays to the county. This summer we have begun carrying out research on accommodation supply and demand across Kent which will produce a set of solid facts from which we can then build a firm strategy for development. We plan to deliver the results of this research during The AHC, hence our deeper relationship with the event this year.”

Gavin Cleary (CG): “From Locate in Kent’s perspective, we have already started the process of identifying many and varied sites throughout the county which are ripe for hotel development. From an inward investment angle, we are keen to see an increase in economic activity which will lead to an increase in job creation and then a growth in experiential activity for residents and visitors. We know that a positive initial experience as a visitor creates an emotional attachment to a place which leads to it being more likely considered for investment, so we are working hard, with Visit Kent, to create a fantastic initial experience for visitors.”

D C-B: “It really is all about place. We want people to see Kent as somewhere to visit, live, work and learn."


The AHC: Of late, if it’s not BoJo saying something daft, it seems the front pages are full of stories highlighting the reduction in public sector funding. Presumably Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) like Visit Kent have felt the pinch too. How have you countered it?

D C-B: “When we realised some years ago that there would be pressures on public sector funding, we took a dynamic decision to be proactive as an organisation. Whilst we are a not-for-profit, we are pretty commercially minded. We have applied and won funding from Discover England as well as the EU and also support other DMOs in the creation of their business plans and offer research, consultancy and our “Big Weekend” campaign outside of the county. We also have a growing number of private sector partners who support our activity and campaigns. Kent is welcoming some huge events to the county over the coming months, including The Open 2020 in July next year and the Turner Prize this autumn. It is possible to survive, as a DMO, but not if you simply rely on public sector funding.”


The AHC: Are local authorities the hotel owners of the future? This trend is gathering pace and we’d be interested in hearing you experience and views.

CG: “Yes it’s certainly something we’re seeing a lot more of. Sevenoaks District Council recently developed a Premier Inn which was a very good move. We’re in the business of placemaking and hotels are a substantial contribution to that sense of place. Councils have identified a way of alleviating shortages in hotel stock whilst incorporating a constant revenue stream which builds, quite literally, into the sense of place. There is an enormous appetite in Kent for development in commercial property, including hotels so I’m sure there is more to come in this space.”

The AHC: Why is The AHC a useful event?

D C-B: “The size of The AHC is a significant part of its winning formal. I can go to Manchester and meet all the people I need to, operating on a domestic level, within the UK hotel industry. It is not so large, or heavily populated with suppliers, that is makes it unproductive. The content is strong and very relevant for hoteliers and those working across the industry. Over the many years I have been attending, I have found it to be a really useful event and look forward to attending again this year.”


David will be speaking during The AHC on the panel session discussing “Belsize, Sky Rise or Bargain Buys? – What’s Your Development Strategy?” on Thursday 10th October at 11am. To join him, us and many of your industry colleagues, it’s just one click here, a few questions, a bit of cash and you’re in!

See you at The AHC!
Learn. Network. Be Inspired


Hoteliers, Hark! What light through yonder window breaks? That would be the beacon of an exclusive rate for hoteliers offering more than a 60% discount on the standard delegate price! Please contact Rowan on for more information.

Calling All Groups.…did you know the current delegate rate of £799.00 will default to £699.00 per delegate when you register 10 or more people so perhaps worth considering if you are planning on several members of your team attending in October?



Register for The AHC 2019 here Group