Meet Diederik Smet: Manager for Destination Dover
Diederik Smet is the manager at Destination Dover, an organisation that works to promote Dover as a tourist destination, rather than only as a place of transition and journeying. With its dramatic coastline, its intriguing art and architecture, the magnificent castle, and great transport connections, Diederik is enthusiastic about the town’s capability for growth and renewal, and is passionate about celebrating its existing treasures. In a recent interview with the Guardian, he said ‘“It’s on the up, with lots of development. Wonderful green spaces nearby, including cycle and walking routes. Gorgeous architecture”.
Keen to work with Dover Arts Development to bring #CHALKUP21 to life, he has been supportive and full of great ideas for the trail. We caught up with him to learn more about his role and his vision for Dover:
For the people who might not know you, could you explain your role at Destination Dover?
My role is destination manager for Dover, which is part of a five year project and comprises of a number of organisations both public and private. This includes Dover Big Local, the District council, the town council, English heritage, the National Trust, The White Cliffs Countryside Tourism alliance, Love Dover, P&O ferries, Dover Marina and Port of Dover. So they’ve all come together to form ‘Destination Dover’ as there was a real lack of coordination in the town to try and drive visitors to the town – and increase the numbers of visitors to the town as well. The district have their own tourism department, but they’re covering a wide area.
What’s on offer in Dover is unique, so it felt like we were really missing a trick. Especially the amount of passing trade that we get here. The ferries, thousands of cruise passengers; this year we had 97 cruise ships coming, next year we’ve already got 112 cruise ships coming in.
What would you like to see more of in Dover?
I would like to see more events. Dover has some fascinating under-utilised spaces around town which get a little forgotten about. Unfortunately, some anti-social behaviour goes on there. Some good examples at St James’ ruin, Pencester park, the Roman lawn – these are all spaces where I’d like to see more of a blend between the heritage and modern things happening together. Just because they’re heritage spaces, it doesn’t mean that they have to be stuck doing events which are fitting from that period, such as Tudor re-enactments. Modern things can bring things back to life.
What do you like about the CHALKUP21 project?
From being involved in Destination Dover, I know the colossal amount of effort involved in getting funding for and going through the whole procedure of getting a building. An architect, especially if it;s a notable architect, will have to go through a public consultation and will really have to involve the public. Then, suddenly, the building is built and their efforts are forgotten – not immediately, but 10, 20 years down the line. What I like about CHALKUP21 is that it revitalises that energy and really highlights all that passion from a group of people who have come out to build, for example, the Wing at Capel or re-do the waterfront in Dover. I think it’s a credit to the community.