Rise in international tourism

With the rise in international tourism, and the advent of the sharing economy and rooms to rent, it can be harder than ever to promote your business. Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism talks to Destination Management Organisations Visit Cornwall and Visit Kent, about putting your business on the map. 

As well as the established national tourism board Visit Britain, the UK is typified by regional destination groups who work to promote the region to domestic tourists and international tourists alike. The role of these Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs) or Destination Marketing Partnerships (DMPs) as they are known, is to act as a conduit between local tourism businesses, and national opportunities, capitalising on them for the benefit of the region. The question is, do they really benefit businesses and should you pay to join or not?

Ultimately, to determine the benefit of the DMO / DMP to your business, you will need to quantify the benefits your local partnership offers, alongside your specific aspirations for your business. This can be done financially in terms of discounts and savings, commercially in terms of bookings and RevPAR or economically in terms of sustainability and future-proofing. As each is managed regionally, by local experts, their benefits will be particular to the region and their vision for the partnership. Short-term, your membership will allow you to capitalise on the opportunities and vision which are already set-out, while long-term, your membership will give you opportunity to help influence the direction and objectives of your local group. Typically, benefits will include promotion to tourists inbound to the area, the opportunity for direct bookings for your business, and representation of your interests at a national and international level. Each regional DMO/DMP will also then have their own benefits, from money-saving benefits to regional awards, PR opportunities to best-practice forums; whatever the organisation opts to arrange.

As an inspectorate, we often work extensively with local DMOs, reviewing local accommodation providers for the benefit of the members and the visitors alike. We’ve seen first-hand the degree to which businesses can benefit from DMO membership, if they grab hold of the opportunities membership presents. Speaking to Malcolm Bell, Chief Executive of Visit Cornwall, he comments “The role of a DMO is to sing the praises of the region as a destination on the international stage, at the same time championing and supporting tourism businesses locally.” He continues “The Visit Cornwall partnership specifically was formed in 2010 as the Tourist Board for Cornwall, established to advise and steer the destination activity. After funding was withdrawn by the local council in March 2015, Visit Cornwall became a Community Interest Company (CIC) and has continued to thrive, demonstrating its value to members and the local region.” Sinead Hanna, Acting Head of Marketing for Visit Kent agrees “Visit Kent launched in 2002 as a joint public and private sector partnership between several key attractions, transport operators and the county council to help boost the county’s visitor economy. It has gone on to be recognised as one of the country’s leading DMOs, targeting UK and overseas markets to raise Kent’s profile as a premier destination, while also improving quality and skills within the industry and growing investment in tourism. Visit Kent has helped grow the value of the visitor economy by £1billion in the last decade, and has also increased visitor numbers by 15million, much of which has directly benefitted the members who we promote.”

While both agree on the value and importance of driving visitor numbers, each organisation offers specific regional benefits guided by the needs and wants of their members. For Visit Kent, each member receives a pack of investor benefits including regular heightened presence on the website and social media channels, promotion to the wide PR and travel trade network, businesses support advice and access to wider successful marketing campaigns such as The Big Weekend, Visit Kent’s London Outdoor campaign and 2 for1 offers. Sinead Hanna comments “By working with their local DMO, businesses can access a much larger audience and benefit from high-profile, joint marketing campaigns that they may not normally be able to do alone.  We travel to dozens of travel trade and PR shows throughout the year to spread the word about Kent, and reach hundreds of thousands of people every month through our digital channels.”

Meanwhile in Cornwall, Malcolm Bell confirms the region’s vision to reduce reliance on Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and therefore the commission paid by members for their bookings. He comments “If the destination has a good website, with the ability to book direct and reduce the 15-20% commission that would be owed to the OTA’s then it makes sense to join. We have developed the Fair Booking Cornwall Initiative, which means that by booking directly, visitors get the best deal i.e. the best room at the best price and, for instance, a bottle of wine or cream tea, together with a donation to a local good cause, which benefits locals and visitors alike. We also encourage members to post their late availability deals or special offers to the website, which again encourages the visitor to book directly and gives the business the opportunity to ‘own’ that customer and market directly to them in the future.” He continues “Our role has expanded and we also use the collective positioning as a member organisation to help influence decisions that are made by strategic partners such as local councils and transport providers. This allows our members to be more involved in issues which have a direct effect on their businesses and ultimately visitors to the area.”

Anyone interested in joining Visit Cornwall should enquire at https://www.visitcornwall.com/ and anyone interested in Visit Kent should go to https://www.visitkent.co.uk/. Any businesses outside of these regions who are interested in joining their local DMO can find their nearest on the Visit Britain website https://www.visitbritain.org/destination-management-organisations-england.

Merchant House, a hotel based in Truro, Cornwall is a member of Visit Cornwall. Speaking to Stephy Lorton, Marketing Manager for the hotel she comments “I work with Visit Cornwall on an almost daily basis, emailing them last minute availability, contributing to their social media and putting offers on their website. We provide every guest with the latest copy of Cornwall Living to support the profile of the region, and other local businesses, and this has had really positive feedback from guests. As part of our membership, we are also involved in the Fair Booking Cornwall initiative, and guests who book direct are treated to a free breakfast, free tea and coffee with homemade cake, free WiFi and free parking. Our membership is invaluable, and as long as we continue to make time to capitalise on the opportunities, we know this is a reliable, important membership for our business.” Merchant House offers a great value stay in the town, with excellent customer service. They are also renowned as a dog-friendly place to stay, complete with an outdoor, heated doggy shower for rinsing off those muddy paws!

The Spa Hotel is a wonderful family-run hotel, set on the edge of Tunbridge Wells in Kent, just a short stroll from the town centre. The charming, beautifully refurbished 18th Century mansion hotel is run in a relaxed, yet efficient manner. The hotel boasts 70 beautiful, individually styled bedrooms with all of the amenities you could need, as well as spa and leisure facilities complimentary to all guests. It is set in 14 acres of picturesque gardens and parkland, with al fresco dining options during the summer months as well as an elegant restaurant and more relaxed brasserie also on offer.

Leah Moulange, Marketing Manager for The Spa Hotel says “We currently feature under the accommodation section of Visit Kent’s website, as well as sending them our event listings which are featured on their website, they also promote these through their social media platforms.  We feel that our relationship with Visit Kent is extremely useful to us as a business due to the large social/web following they have.”

This article is from www.hotelowner.co.uk

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