Mayflower 400 celebrations could see share of £76m tourism for town

An Illuminate parade in recent years, organised by Transported Art, has been building towards the Mayflower 400 celebrations. EMN-180126-100416001
An Illuminate parade in recent years, organised by Transported Art, has been building towards the Mayflower 400 celebrations. EMN-180126-100416001

Boston could be set to profit from a share of more than 1.4 million visitors from the USA – creating a £76 million economic impact and 2,000 jobs – as part of its role in celebrating the history of the Mayflower sailing to America, researchers believe.

Organisers of Mayflower 400, which takes place in 2020, have featured the town as one of 11 destinations on a National Mayflower Trail taking in the history of the Pilgrim’s journey to the New World.

As part of the ongoing work Destination Plymouth commissioned research in the United States by specialist agency, Habit5, to evaluate the commercial and investment potential for those taking part.

It is estimated that there are more than 25 million descendants worldwide from the 102 passengers and crew on board the Mayflower - with 10 million of those being US citizens.

The research, which aimed to determine the potential visitor market before, during and after the anniversary estimates the celebrations will drive growth in the UK visitor economy of more than 1.4 million visitors during the commemoration year alone, with an economic impact in excess of £76 million, in turn creating around 2,000 jobs.

Executive director of Destination Plymouth, Amanda Lumley said: “The research evidences the significant potential the Mayflower 400th anniversary presents to the UK’s visitor economy.

“We encourage the travel trade in the UK, US and Dutch markets to capitalise on this opportunity, in order to generate valuable tourism business through driving visitors to follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims and experience the Mayflower 400 compact partner destinations first 

The research will be shared with stakeholders and businesses in England and the Netherlands.

The survey of 4,865 US acitizens, found that 12 per cent of respondents would be ‘very likely’ to visit England in 2020, these were called Hot Prospects.

Thirty-six percent were ‘likely’ to do so.

However, it found that 80 per cent of those surveyed were unaware of the anniversary – meaning more would need to be done to educate people before the anniversary.

Researchers said that half of the Hot Prospects indicated they would wish to make a specific visit to Plymouth, Leiden, Boston and Southampton.

Plymouth ranked second after London for locations where the Hot Prospects would like to stay during the commemorations, followed by Leiden, Amsterdam, Boston and Southampton.

How Boston’s role in the Mayflower story is portrayed is a divisive area between the town’s historians.

Some believe too much emphasis is placed on the events which saw the Scrooby congregation - including Williams Brewster and Bradford - make their first attempt to escape to Holland across The Wash, from Scotia Creek, in Fishtoft.

Betrayed by the ship’s captain they had arranged to travel with, they were held and tried in Boston Guildhall.

A month later most were sent home, although seven ringleaders were ordered to the higher court in Lincoln.