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A £1 million Discover England Fund project is underway to build market share for businesses on and around the Midlands’ canals and rivers. The project – England’s Waterways – is being delivered by the West Midlands Growth Company and a consortium of local authority and destination management organisation partners, the Canal & River Trust and Drifters, the flagship organisation for narrowboat holidays in Britain.

The Fund supports the growth of one of England’s most successful export industries: inbound tourism. England has seen record tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors, delivering economic growth and jobs across the English regions.

Nearly 2,000 tourism, culture and hospitality businesses across the region are located within a mile of the waterways, according to our research. Many of these companies are now eligible for a tourism export programme to grow their understanding of travel trade distribution networks and product development for overseas and online operators and agents.

The England’s Waterways project has also supported the professional development of tourism and culture managers with a workshop to explain distribution networks and getting the product to market, through the ‘Cultural Destinations’ project.

Working with regional hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, tours, attractions and arts organisations, we are building short breaks and longer holidays for active and curious lovers of hidden England. Visitors’ experiences will be characterised by walking, cycling, boating or staying on historic working canals and beautiful rivers. Life by the water offers plenty of time to live alongside the locals with visits to pubs and classic English gardens, taking afternoon tea, shopping and revelling in arts and culture experiences.

Through our business support programme, our regional industry partners can build new experiences for overseas and domestic visitors. We are working with UK ground handlers to arrange the visitor infrastructure, and with overseas operators to attend trade exhibitions, arrange collaborative promotional campaigns, and build new, bookable itineraries for the trade to sell through their customer networks. 

We want to make sure that all of our relevant businesses can exploit this opportunity and we urge them to get involved. England’s Waterways will bring new visitors to the region, offer test and learn opportunities to model ways of working for Coventry City of Culture, and the Commonwealth Games, contributing to a greater reputation and higher recognition of the heart of England, which will benefit all of our tourism, arts and cultural businesses.

For more information about the business support programme, please click here. For project details or to participate, please get in touch with our team – England’s Waterways Project Manager Zoey Harris or Cultural Destinations Project Manager Margaret Way.

Becky Frall
Programme Director of England’s Waterways