Kent Downs wins international diversity, equality and inclusion award

Muslim Hikers walking the White Cliffs of Dover

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17th July 2023

The Kent Downs National Landscape has won the first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Campaign prize at the Travel Marketing Awards for its dedicated walking experience for the Muslim community.

The Muslim Hikers Kent Downs coastal walk in February has been recognised for promoting inclusivity in the great outdoors, while the Up The Kent Downs initiative was praised as one of the best integrated campaigns at the prestigious awards ceremony this month, beating other travel campaigns from around the world.

The Travel Marketing Awards are one of the most sought-after accolades in the industry, celebrating brilliance in travel marketing, and the originality, creativity, innovation and relevancy of campaigns delivered by different destinations.

For the first time, the ceremony included an award recognising the steps travel companies and organisations have taken to put diverse values at the heart of their campaigns to attract wider audiences.

Kent Downs was the first ever winner of the DEI award on 3rd July, with judges praising its work in promoting inclusive and sustainable access to the countryside.

The Up The Kent Downs campaign, which included the Muslim Hikers experience, was also awarded 2nd place in the best Integrated Campaign, coming second to San Francisco and beating entries from Texas and British Colombia.

Kathryn Hearnden, EXPERIENCE Project Marketing and Communications Manager for Kent Downs AONB, said:

“These awards are recognised around the world, even being shortlisted for two against some very stiff competition is an incredible achievement.

“To win one and to come second in another is truly spectacular, and a testament to the hard work of our entire team and partners. We are deeply honoured, and delighted!”

Kent Downs created the Muslim Hikers event as part of their EXPERIENCE programme, which promotes the area of outstanding natural beauty is welcoming year-round destination for all people and interests.

Muslim Hikers walk the White Cliffs of Dover Muslim Hikers walk the White Cliffs of Dover Muslim Hikers walk the White Cliffs of Dover

The organisation reached out to Active Inclusion Network, which champions diversity outdoors across the UK, to offer a dedicated walking tour along the Kent Heritage Coast for the Muslim Hikers in February 2023. In partnership with the National Trust, Kent Downs worked with the hiking group’s founder Haroon to devise a suitable route, ensure the walk was sustainable and accessible, and to address any concerns of the community in advance. This was the first ever coastal walk for the group.

The first Muslim Hikers Kent Downs walk was held in February 2023, with the 6.5mile route taking in the White Cliffs of Dover, South Foreland Lighthouse, Pines Calyx, St Margaret’s Bay and Wanstone Battery, with stops for prayers and lunch. Tickets for the event sold out within three hours, and attracted 150 Muslims from across the UK and reached 26,000 people on social media.

The event also helped the Muslim Hikers to connect with the Friends of Napier Barracks to organise a walk with them for National Refugee Week, as well as with the National Trails to create more walks across the UK.

Kent Downs will be exploring more activities with the Muslim Hikers and other diverse groups in the near future.

Haroon Mota, founder of Muslim Hikers said:

“It is a great honour to see this event receive such a prestigious award, and we are delighted that open, diverse and inclusive events like this for our community are getting international recognition.

“Our community loved the experience in Kent and the feedback was excellent. The support we had from the Kent Downs National Landscape team and the National Trust has been fantastic, everyone felt very welcome and well looked after. As an organisation without core funding, we rely on partnership events like this and we were so grateful when Kent Downs National Landscape reached out to us.

“These relationships and events are so vital in helping people feel more welcome by building their confidence and awareness of the outdoors. We will certainly be back.”

Kathryn Hearnden added:

“We saw that the Hikers had visited many places in the North but had yet to experience an iconic walk along our coastline. So we decided to reach out and devise a route for them.

“It was fantastic showing them the beauty of the place and just how much it can offer visitors all year round.

“The Kent Downs is your very own wellness retreat, open year round and always free, giving you unmissable, sensory, and immersive experiences, where you can ‘live like a local’ and enjoy your short break sustainably.”

The Kent Downs EXPERIENCE EU-funded project has helped to introduce the county’s incredible landscape to more people and raise awareness of its value as an inclusive place to enjoy and visit, while enabling further improvement works to be done on key trails.

The project is complemented by the ‘Up the Kent Downs’ campaign, which showcases more than 30 new local experiences, inspirational itineraries and new walking and cycling routes to encourage people to make the most of the protected landscape.

Kent Downs AONB is also aspiring to become a Cross-Channel UNESCO Global Geopark, in partnership with Parc Naturel Regional des Caps et Marais d’Opale in France.

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