Antonia Stratford
14th November 2022

Last week, the team had the pleasure of attending the annual City Nation Place conference in London to hear about the latest developments with regards to destination management and marketing across the UK and to catch up with other destination colleagues.

If you weren’t able to get to the conference, never fear as we have compiled a short overview of some of the key points and learnings from the day.  Collaboration, innovation and sustainability emerged as key themes:

  • It appears that our recent political troubles have not dampened enthusiasm to visit the UK for our overseas visitors and the UK plc brand is still very strong (which is a relief!). Fun fact – in a recent international consumer survey -  the top three most famous Brits are Shakespeare, The Queen and David Beckham.
  • VisitBritain’s work to help deliver the recommendations made by the De Bois Review are well underway with a planned pilot for one new Destination Development Partnership and the accreditation scheme for new Local Visitor Economy Partnerships due to be launched shortly.
  • We heard from Malcolm Bell – the CEO of Visit Cornwall and the challenges he and his colleagues face to try and achieve a better balance in the county’s visitor economy. The team want to ensure that tourism is not just sustainable but regenerative, competitive and responsible with as much revenue going into the local economy as possible.  The pandemic has produced new markets e.g. digital nomads, business tourists looking to gather with remote or hybrid working colleagues and baby boomers who have a lot of leisure time - Cornwall are working hard to encourage these groups to visit the county ‘out of season’.
  • There were some inspirational words from Dr Martin Reeves, CEO of Coventry City Council who acknowledged that we are in a unique situation right now geopolitically, financially and with our domestic political situation and climate change thrown into the mix. Destinations need to acknowledge this maelstrom – Martin’s advice was that it is not necessary for destinations to implement huge or grand initiatives – small can also be good with connection being key for consumers.  Turning to the city’s experience of being a City of Culture in 2021, the economic return was substantial (with a return of £8 for every £1 invested) and destinations should not underestimate the power of symbolic change for residents.  The city has also been innovative with the construction of the world’s first urban airport utilising drone technology which (when legislation allows) will carry passengers in drone taxis.  He urged delegates to exude confidence and aspiration for their destinations and as an economist reminded us that the economy is cyclical – so keep maintaining the conditions for when the up bit of the cycle returns which (in his opinion) will come back a lot more quickly than you think.  
  • Scotland is focused on driving forward a sustainable agenda for their visitor economy and their research shows that consumers want businesses to adapt their products and communicate how they will work with them for a better future. Educate consumers in an inspiring way about sustainability and look at what’s viable – it doesn’t have to be perfect.
  • There were two great examples of collaboration – the marketing teams from The University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University explained how they had combined forces in order to attract potential students to come to Sheffield (check out their video here) and colleagues from Visit Exeter and the local Business Improvement District (InExeter) explained how they had collaborated to really help put the city on the map. They aligned key stakeholders around a common vision and conducted joint campaigns including the innovative High St Safari – an Augmented Reality campaign to drive footfall onto the high street.

Go To Places’ CEO Deidre Wells provided the final talk to the UK conference talking about how to balance the visitor economy with the needs of local residents.  Her top tips? Neglect local communities at your peril!  Get it right however and they can be your biggest advocates. 

Her advice to delegates was to engage, inform and involve residents where possible and conduct regular surveys to pick up feedback and any pain points.  One of our most successful initiatives involving residents has been our Big Day Out campaign (formerly The Big Weekend) which sees attractions in destinations give away free tickets to the public via a competitive ballot once a year.  It raises awareness of attractions in the local area, encourages repeat business and rewards residents.

The campaign has grown from strength to strength and we have now run it in a total of five destinations.  If you would like to find out more about The Big Day Out campaign or how our latest collaboration with four other agencies (The Roofbox Collective) can really help to put your destination on the map - get in touch