A summer of migrant chaos and Operation Stack has led to a dramatic collapse in tourist numbers at some of our area’s favourite visitor attractions.

Closure of the Port of Calais and suspension of Eurotunnel services has cost Kent tens of millions of pounds according to the county’s tourism chief.

The sector is estimated to be worth £3.4bn a year, supporting 67,000 jobs.

Striking French ferry workers and daily migrant incursions brought the northern French port to a standstill for much of the summer, leading to Operation Stack on the M20.

The chaotic scenes cost the freight industry tens of millions as thousands of lorries lay idle on the coast-bound section of the motorway.

General manager of local stately home Penshurst Place, Ben Thomas, said: “Visitor numbers have been much lower than usual for the months of June and August.

“It has been reported that that people have refused to drive to the area because of the gridlock on the road caused by Operation stack.

“Visitors numbers from the continent are also down. No official numbers have been collected yet, but there has been a noticeable reduction.'”

Visit Kent chief executive Sandra Matthews-Marsh told Radio Kent that she would not be surprised at all if the costs ran into the tens of millions.

Sandra Mathews marsh said: “Early indications from our research is that the impact has been extraordinary and much more serious than expected.”

Recent Eurostar travellers have faced long delays and cancellations as migrants with climbing aboard the train, trying to make their way into the country.

These problems have been putting off many European holidaymakers from visiting England over the summer.

Visit Kent spokesman Sinead Hanna said: “Operation Stack and the situation in Calais has had a direct negative impact on visitor numbers for the attractions around Kent.”

Richard Orr of the English Heritage told the Times visitor numbers at attractions across south east are down this summer.

Dover Castle has had its visitor numbers drop by a reported seven percent in three months compared to similar figures last year.

Spokesman Imogen Uden said: “We did see a drop in visitors at Dover Castle during the recently extended implementation of Operation Stack as well as a significant number of cancellations from pre-booked school groups.”

Popular Kent attraction, Leeds Castle, has seen a thirty percent reduction in visitor numbers.

Gemma Wright of Leeds Castle said: “Being located just off of Junction 8 of the M20, where the problems start, it seems many people are deciding to stay away from this area when Stack is in place.

“Due to Operation Stack, we are approximately 30 per cent down on budgeted visitors figures, which translates as roughly £90,000 income loss for the charity.”

Fact file:

  • Average spend from UK tourists in Tunbridge Wells is £39m
  • Average spend from foreign visitors to Tunbridge Wells is £19m.
  • Of that £19m – £7.5m is from overseas holiday makers and £2.5m is from business
  • Tunbridge Wells receives 250,000 UK visitors
  • Tunbridge Wells attracts 58,000 foreign tourists
  • Each visitor stays in Tunbridge Wells for four days and three nights on average
  • Kent is given £530m from direct UK tourist spending
  • The county gets £300m from direct overseas spending with £95m coming from holidays and £70m coming from business.
  • Tourist industry covers 12 per cent of all Kent’s employment.