Hundreds turn out for the first Essex Big Weekend

The first ever Essex Big Weekend went off with a bang this month!

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Hundreds of people embraced the good weather on 1st and 2nd April and celebrated the county’s fantastic tourism industry, by visiting a huge range of attractions and sharing their memories on social media.

49 tourism businesses donated thousands of tickets and experiences to Essex Big Weekend, and there were over 86,000 applications for the free tickets in the online ballot. Two tickets per household were allocated by ballot to the lucky winners (some family tickets were available).

Attractions went out of their way to extend a warm welcome to ticket holders over the weekend, and lucky winners shared their pictures on Twitter and facebook for the chance to win some big prizes in the Essex Big Weekend ‘selfie’ competition.

Visit Essex Chairman Peter Murphy said: “We could not have asked for better weather – or a better welcome – for the first ever Essex Big Weekend. All the participating attractions got into the spirit of the weekend, and shared some lovely feedback from customers about the whole experience.

This event was designed to help re-ignite people’s passion for Essex by showing them just how much there is to see and do on their doorstep, and I’m pleased to say following initial feedback received, it seems to have done just that.”

Carol Jolly Visit Essex’s Marketing and PR Manager said “Our social media platforms were full of great posts and photos from the weekend, both from ticket holders and attractions. This is certainly an event that we hope will take place on an annual basis – roll on 2018!”

During the weekend, both the Chairman Peter Murphy and the Visit Essex Team, visited several participating attractions to show their support for local tourism.

The ‘selfie/photo’ competition was particularly difficult to judge, since all the photos posted were amazing. However, nine winners were chosen and have won prizes to Lifehouse Spa, Orsett Hall, Audley End Miniature Railway, Barleylands Farm, Old MacDonald’s Farm, Dedham Vale Vineyard, the Princes Theatre Clacton, and a Wilkins & Sons hamper of goodies. Essex resident Michelle Porter, one of the winners said ’Our family had such a fantastic day out at RHS Garden Hyde Hall, it was our first visit, and the staff were helpful and friendly. The whole Big Weekend was a fabulous idea, and it gave us a chance to explore a new place we wouldn’t have thought of visiting before’.

During the build-up, the @VisitEssex Twitter and facebook accounts saw over 100% increase in followers and during the weekend alone, the Visit Essex website had 20,000 page views.

Organised by Visit Essex, the Essex Big Weekend event aims to boost tourism and support leisure businesses by giving Essex residents the chance to discover – or rediscover – a huge range of attractions and activities across the county for free for one ‘big weekend’.

The Beach Huts at Promenade Park Maldon & Pirates Bay Golf, proved to be the most popular offers during the ballot, and entry to Colchester Zoo was second. Tickets to Audley End House & Gardens, Rope Runners, RHS Hyde Hall and the use of the spa facilities at the Lifehouse Hotel & Spa completed the top six and their combined applications drew in 37,500 bids.

Other tickets included entry to heritage sites, gardens, parks, museums, sports and leisure e facilities, and food and drink experiences.

Essex County Council and Visit Essex worked in partnership with destination management specialists Go To Places to deliver the first of many successful Big Weekend events in Essex.

Essex Big Weekend also formed part of the national celebrations for English Tourism Week 2017.

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