Two of the most influential businessmen on The Pantiles have told the Times how their combined efforts are securing a bright future for the historical promenade.
Tunbridge Wells Hotel owner Julian Leefe-Griffiths and the chief executive of Targetfollow, Corin Thoday, believe with the right strategy they could turn The Pantiles into a prime destination for all times of year.
Speaking ahead of the Christmas markets launch, Mr Leefe-Griffiths said: “Seven years ago during the depth of the recession The Pantiles looked a bit sad and was going downhill, but it has begun to be turned around.”
Along with Targetfollow, a major Pantiles landlord, Mr Leefe-Griffiths has been helping to organise the jazz every Thursday for the past two years after taking over from its previous management.
He said: “It has been going really well and has started to revitalise The Pantiles.”
But while the jazz helps boost footfall in the summer, neither company believed The Pantiles were getting the most out of the festive season.
Mr Leefe-Griffiths added: “Both Targetfollow and I were aware that while the markets were working down here, they could be even better.
“We have great summers, lots of things going on, but we were both minded that more needed to be done to make it a winter destination. Targetfollow and The Pantiles Events Company have been really pleased with the progress made over the last two years at The Pantiles.”
After taking over the three year lease to run the markets in October, both companies have been spending time and money on making sure it is the biggest and most successful yet.
Part of making sure there is a sustainable future for The Pantiles is to get the balance right between shops, cafés and pubs, said Mr Thoday.
He added: “We strive to have a 50-50 mix between the two types of establishment. At the moment, we believe the balance is about right, we do not want to swing too far towards just being cafes, bars and restaurants.”
Mr Thoday pointed out that two new retailers were choosing to locate on The Pantiles, filling current vacancies, although he was unwilling to disclose who they would be.
He said: “We are investing in The Pantiles to help preserve its unique historical character and provide all those who come here with a good experience.”
Mr Leefe-Griffiths and Mr Thoday spoke out in support of the new Dandara development which will replace Union House, and the conversion of the Corn Exchange into a Curzon cinema.
Both of these projects, they said, would help cement the continuous transformation of The Pantiles into a vibrant and popular destination.
Visitors to The Pantiles will be able to enjoy two more Christmas Market weekends this December. Dates are:
12th & 13th December
19th & 20th December