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Essex Big Weekend tourism event kick starts sector set to boost county’s economy by £3.1bn in 2017

PUBLISHED: 17:30 31 March 2017 | UPDATED: 17:30 31 March 2017

Tourist Rachael Clayton and TJ Lawes visiting Colchester Castle from Newcastle. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tourist Rachael Clayton and TJ Lawes visiting Colchester Castle from Newcastle. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tourism chiefs hope to see the Essex economy boosted by £180million more with a bumper summer season this year.

Colchester Castle is taking part in the Essex Big Weekend. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWNColchester Castle is taking part in the Essex Big Weekend. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

In 2015 more than 50 million tourists contributed more than £3billion to the county’s economy – but officials hope to see these numbers grow by 6% this year.

The season kicks off today with the very first Essex Big Weekend, which has seen more than 5,000 residents sign up to attend venues and events.

As part of the initiative 48 tourism business offered tickets for everything from go-kart racing to historical house visit given away in a public ballot – which saw double the number of entries than the 3,500 tickets up for grabs.

Lucky winners will be setting out with family and friends to enjoy the county’s hidden gems over the weekend.

John Child's and Katie Garlick visiting Colchester Castle. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWNJohn Child's and Katie Garlick visiting Colchester Castle. Photo: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Lisa Bone, head of tourism at Visit Essex, said: “It’s about civic pride and it’s about getting people to discover what’s on their doorstep and sharing it with family and friends.

“Nearly 7,000 people applied for tickets. It’s the first time we have run it [The Essex Big Weekend] and it will now be an annual event.”

“In theory I’m expecting to see a 6% increase from 2015 in terms of people and value.

“People are actually staying for slightly less time but actually spending more, people on day trips are also spending more.”

More people from overseas have also been coming to visit the sights and sounds of Essex, following campaigns with the Dutch and US markets, which has seen a boost in international tourists.

The Essex Big Weekend is hoping to draw residents’ attention to all the popular attractions that the county has to offer this summer and help develop the blossoming tourist industry even further.

Lisa said: “Because of the weak pound I think more people are staying at home.”

The 2015 figures were also a 4% rise on the previous year.

An estimated 59,000 people are directly employed in the tourism industry in Essex, making it a huge employer for the county.

Attractions participating in the big weekend include Adventure Island in Southend, Colchester Castle, Audley End Miniature Railway, Colne Valley Railway, which sports working steam trains, and Colchester Zoo.

For more information visit the Essex Big Weekend website.

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