Plans are underway to transform Epping Forest into a top tourist destination, as local businesses take matters into their own hands.

More than 50 companies have joined forces with Epping Forest District Council in a bid to bring holiday makers to the district, from across the UK.

Following the success of the flagship website ‘Visit Epping Forest’ which was launched ten months ago, local business owners met with the council to discuss the next stage of the project.

At the Action for Tourism workshop, hosted by EFDC, a range of local businesses, from tour guides, to shops and restaurants got together to discover ways in which they can boost the tourist trade.

At a speed dating session representatives from each company got to know their neighbours, and swapped tips on how to increase visitor numbers.

Many deals were also made to actively advertise for one another, by sending visitors to each other’s doors and displaying posters and flyers for neighbouring businesses.

Entrepreneurs attending the session said that knowing what other companies in the area have to offer, would allow them to make recommendations to visiting customers.

Epping based businesswoman Rekha Patel, who owns both the Epping Tea Rooms and the Clocktower restaurant, said that the event was long overdue.

She said: “It was wonderful and I am glad that there are finally plans to grab tourism by the horns in Epping Forest.

“This is a great opportunity for the people on the ground to work together, alongside the people who can make things happen.”

Councillor Tony Boyce, who has been a driving force behind the project, believes that there is real potential for Epping Forest to rival some of the world’s most popular holiday destinations.

He said: “Why spend thousands of pounds going to New England when we have got it all here in Epping Forest?”