Tourism & Leisure Business of the YearBack to Winners
Sponsored by Southeastern
KEY PRODUCT/SERVICE: Tourist attraction
NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 142
Chatham Historic Dockyard has been built on overcoming setbacks. The attraction focuses on the shipbuilding history of the site over 400 years, from sail to steam and nuclear power until the closure of the industry in 1984. Since then it has been run by the Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, which opened a museum and attraction in 1985.
It welcomed nearly 148,000 visitors last year, down from its usual 160,000 thanks to challenges like Storm Katie’s winds impacting Easter Sunday, terrorism in northern Europe and the insolvency of a contractor working on one of its largest attractions, the Command of the Oceans exhibition.
Launched last May, the Command of the Oceans revealed the full story of the dockyard’s “age of sail” and how it helped lead Britain to worldwide influence in the 18th century.
It has developed 18,000 followers across social media and made turnover of £5.3 million last year, up 2%, coming from visitor admissions, property and filming. Aside from its tourism credentials, the dockyard has an overall footfall of 750,000 when residents, tenants and students at its university campuses are considered.
Its hospitality business caters for weddings, corporate and social functions. It has become a popular filming location for movies like Sherlock Holmes and programmes like Call the Midwife.
The site generates £16 million for the Kent economy, with more than 100 businesses based there. The Trust has secured £7.4 million for the development of the Fitted Rigging House, which will be turned into commercial space bringing in another £300,000 a year once open. The 9,000sq m building needs £8.2m of investment. It is hoped this will make the Trust self-sustainable for the first time.
Visitor experience manager Alex Patterson said: “Our strategy is to preserve our iconic buildings, ships and collections and their environment to the highest standard, using the talent, commitment and entrepreneurial flair within our teams to develop the Historic Dockyard as a sustainable maritime heritage destination of choice that provides an unmatched educational experience for a global audience.”