Essex Big Weekend returns as tourism in county continues to grow

Colchester Castle is just one of the attractions taking part in the Essex Big Weekend. Picture: SU ANDERSON/ARCHANT

Colchester Castle is just one of the attractions taking part in the Essex Big Weekend. Picture: SU ANDERSON/ARCHANT

Tourism bosses hope residents make the most of attractions on their doorstep as part of the second Essex Big Weekend – and help to further grow the £3.1billion boost to the economy the industry brings.

Essex Big Weekend 2018. Picture: VISIT ESSEX Essex Big Weekend 2018. Picture: VISIT ESSEX

The event, being held on March 24-25, will see more than 50 venues across the county offer up free tickets to residents, who can bid for them via an online ballot.

Organised by Visit Essex, the county’s tourism body, the idea is not only to offer up something for local people, but to then encourage them to shout out to others about what Essex has to offer.

In 2016, the most recent year figures are available for, tourism boosted the Essex economy by £3.1billion – up 3.1% on the previous year – and employed more than 60,800 people.

• Last year’s first-ever Essex Big Weekend

Carol Jolly, marketing manager for Visit Essex, said: “It encourages residents to find out what is on their doorstep, and to give them a great experience.

“If that happens then they go home and tell all their friends and family and encourages repeat visits as well – that’s the idea behind it.

“They talk about it and become ambassadors for Essex.

“Kent has been doing this for 11 years and built it up to 11,000 people getting tickets.”

The vast majority of tourism income in the county comes from day trips, but Visit Essex is keen to increase the number of overnight stays, as well as the number of international tourists who may come to the UK through Essex’s sea or airports.

Heritage attractions and the coastline are the two biggest draws to Essex for visitors.

Last year the Big Weekend had 49 businesses taking part, and this year 47 have already signed up, with several others saying they plan to. More than 86,000 bids were made on the ballot, and 7,000 people won tickets.

Attractions taking part in north Essex include Colchester Castle, the Colne Valley Railway, Audley End House, Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, and the Lifehouse Spa.

“They are all quite different so there’s something for everyone,” Mrs Jolly added.

Over the weekend there will be a selfie competition, with the best picture winning a prize.

The public ballot takes place from February 8 until March 12, with residents able to bid for as many tickets as they like.

Tourism businesses have until Wednesday, January 31, to sign up to offer tickets.

To find out more, register for the ballot or to sign up your business, visit the event website.

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