The findings come from a comprehensive study exploring the supply and demand for new hotel accommodation across the county. It was commissioned by tourist organisation Visit Kent and the Destination Management Organisation Locate in Kent.
Carried out by Canterbury Christ Church University over the summer, the full findings will be released later this year, but an interim report has uncovered county-wide gaps in hotel provision.
Not only did researchers find that Kent has ‘zero availability’ of five-star rated hotels, but the county is 77 per cent rural and only 14 per cent of serviced beds are located in rural areas.
Kent also lacks large hotels, with only 30 establishments having more than 100 bedrooms.
The report found that services such as Airbnb are filling the gaps left by inadequate hotel provision, with the online platform seeing demand rocket by 450 per cent in peak season.
Earlier this year, Visit Kent released figures showing the county was the third most visited destination outside of London for foreign visitors, with the tourism industry worth £3.8billion a year.
For Tunbridge Wells, tourism generates £278million a year.
“We recognise the need to provide quality accommodation at all levels, and so we commissioned new research to assess the current and future supply and demand across Kent,” said David Curtis-Brignell, Deputy Chief Executive of Visit Kent.
He continued: “Kent has a strong visitor offer – 350 miles of coastline, countless world-famous heritage sites and events, and new high-end products such as the Wine Garden of England partnership.
“Our visitor economy has grown by over £1billion in the past decade. Our forward strategy centres on growing the quality and range of experiences to encourage visitors to spend more with local businesses and increase the number of overnight stays.”
He added that Visit Kent identified business travel, meetings and conferences as a sector that will deliver strong year-round occupancy.
“The results show that there are clear growth hotspots across the county which present an opportunity to address the lack of quality serviced accommodation and higher capacity properties to provision in rural locations. This represents a clear opportunity for developers to look at Kent as a priority investment location,” he said.
Gavin Cleary, CEO for Locate in Kent, added: “Kent is amongst the best-connected places in the UK, in close proximity to London and Europe and with an exciting offer for leisure and business visitors alike.
“Having quality hotel accommodation near to some of the strategic sites we’ve identified at Locate in Kent is a win-win, for both business growth and hotel sector growth.
“What has emerged from the review carried out by Locate in Kent in close conjunction with local authorities across Kent is a range of different potential investment sites across a number of categories – from seafront properties in Margate and heritage sites in Canterbury to existing and new golf course sites.
“There’s now a real opportunity for investors to meet demand.”