What makes you choose to buy something new or go on holiday to somewhere different? From chocolates to cars to flights you only have to switch on the TV to see how major companies promote themselves. A resort like Torbay is in the same league as big business. Tourism locally has a turnover of 430 million and employs 11,500 people. The only difference is that it isn’t Torbay plc but a fragmented industry of over a thousand small businesses and so there is no multimillion pound marketing budget. In fact if you added up everyone’s marketing money it would run into millions but each business spends their money separately with little national impact. This is why Destination Marketing is so important.
The holy grail of Destination Marketing is for businesses to work together and pool just some of their promotional money to be able to compete with the big operators. Until now local authorities have recognised how important visitors are to their local economy and put money into promotion. This along with Regional and Central Government support has encouraged some local businesses to work together. The result has been organisations like the English Riviera Tourism Company ERTC, which has successfully promoted the Bay over the last five years. Not only has this generated a high national profile with its brochure and website but also many other activities including social media, PR and Visitor Information. Last year Tripadvisor listed us as the top UK destination. It has also helped local businesses to work together. Evidence shows that this is of real importance to create a successful visitor economy more likely to sustain investment, business growth and employment. The ERTC has managed this on a budget far smaller than our main competitors.
However, austerity means this all is changing. First the regional tourist boards were cut, then local authorities found themselves with little money to fund discretionary services like tourism and finally this month, Visit England, the national body for promoting holidays within this country, is being closed. We are on our own.
When destination marketing stops there is not a quick change in fortune but the results over a number of years have always been the same – lower visitors, less income, less employment and less investment. An example is Stratford District Council, which withdrew its funding over six years ago. Having realised the destination had dropped from being one of the highest visited destination in the country they elected to re-invest a few years later. Even Shakespeare’s England needed promotion.
Some businesses have never joined in with central campaigns. Booking.com can deliver guests to a property without them ever paying for a guide advert. Similarly a coach operator will deliver customers to the door without that hotel having to invest in any collective advertising. However if all business took that approach there would be no national promotion of the Bay and every business would suffer. Holiday makers have to be persuaded to want to visit Torbay before they go online looking for accommodation or book a coach holiday.
Now that there is no substantial public funding, I believe the only way to ensure the tourist industry work together and promote the Bay nationally is by creating a Tourism Business Improvement District for Torbay. This is where all tourism businesses vote as to whether they want to pay a levy proportionate to their size into a central fund. If the majority vote yes it is legally binding on all. This will have benefits beyond our industry for retail and the local community but it will be a lifeblood for ourselves.