TOURISM in Winchester is booming, according to city council officers.

City businesses gathered at a tourism conference at Winchester Guildhall last Wednesday (Jul 3) where they heard the city’s Destination Management Partnership (DMP) with East Hampshire District Council, the South Downs National Park and Tourism South East, was reaping rewards two years after it was formed.

Ellen Simpson, council head of tourism since 2008, said visitors to Winchester currently stay an average of 2.6 nights but the partnership wants to increase that.

She said: “It’s our job to get your message across to other organisations. The main reason people come here is because it is a heritage destination, but if we want them to stay longer and come back again we have to raise the volume about what there is to do in the area.

“In 2012 some of our members said they were slightly concerned about the impact of the Olympics on local trade so we put together the Best of British festival which was fantastic. We had Dame Judi Dench as our patron and 12,000 people attended events.”

The partnership has 52 members working with up to 350 retailers in the city, while it has brought in £2m through advertising campaigns in the past two years, compared to £211,000 in the previous two.

It also works with organisations like Winchester Business Improvement District (BID) on annual projects like the Christmas market and ice rink, which brings more than 300,000 to the city.

Meanwhile the conference also heard from Gary Fletcher, chief executive of Forest Holidays which recently opened a 40-cabin luxury holiday camp at Blackwood Forest, near Micheldever.

Mr Fletcher said the site cost £10m but was a sound investment, with 25,000 guests expected per year.