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Increasing Value of Visitors not Volume Is Key for UK Destinations

Antonia Stratford
16th February 2021

Last week, Go To Places in partnership with Global Media and Travelmole held a roundtable discussion for senior representatives from over 20 Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) based all over the UK in order to share experiences, lessons learned and to update each other on plans for 2021.

At the beginning of the discussion, Emma Liddiard, Area Business Director at Global Media briefly highlighted some key statistics from their ‘Voice of the Nation’ research (and other key research sources):

  • The family segment in the UK is the most keen to go overseas for a holiday
  • Financially, 58% of respondents consider themselves the same or better off (this also tallies with recent findings from our research amongst Kent residents). Furthermore, one third of respondents are not currently planning to change the amount they spend on holidays and breaks.
  • 59% of respondents will book close to the time when they want to go away
  • A cancellation policy is the most important aspect to people when booking and there are concerns over what the holiday be like upon arrival (i.e. will things be open and will there be things to do?) and is it responsible to be travelling at all?
  • Just over half of the respondents will be booking a holiday in the UK this year and when restrictions lift – 81% of respondents stated that their desire to explore their local area has increased (our research amongst Kent residents shows that due to the pandemic, 65% of respondents feel more strongly connected to their local area)
  • 55% of respondents will consider sustainability when booking their next holiday
  • Currently, there are two main mindsets amongst consumers - the Still Dreaming (i.e. lots of pent up demand) and Anxiety Inertia (worried about health, personal finances etc)

We then had a lively discussion with DMO representatives.  Some of the key points and comments were:

  • Many destinations have seen tourism businesses adapt their products with (unsurprisingly) an increased emphasis on outdoor activity and a focus on people being able to control their own environments. The Isle of Wight for example is due to launch a new football golf course in 2021 and are considering motorcycle races around the island.
  • Although many destinations saw record footfall in 2020, revenues were significantly decreased.  The challenge going forward is for many attractions to generate revenue from their popular outside spaces particularly as destinations normally generate three times the revenue from international visitors compared to domestic visitors.
  • Use of appropriate and sensitive imagery is key for destinations and tourism businesses – photos of large groups of people are not appropriate in the current climate and the overseas market will be sensitive to images of ‘overtourism’
  • Coast and rural destinations will be the clear winners (again) this year in terms of attracting visitors – however very remote rural/coastal areas even with a strong tourism product offer face the challenge of accessibility as many visitors are reluctant and nervous about using transport methods such as train and planes. Encouraging private car use does not sit well with the sustainability agenda.
  • Destinations need to be able to stand out from the crowd and extending seasonality will help to reduce competitiveness amongst DMOs (the EU funded Experience programme in Kent is helping our local tourism businesses to develop ‘out of season’ experiences and products). Destinations should ask themselves ‘what do we want to be famous for?’
  • The pandemic has been/is an opportunity to raise the quality, sustainability and range of tourism product. It will be all about new and contemporary visitor experiences going forward
  • Honeypot destinations talked about the challenge of increasing value from visitors not volume - i.e. managing capacity in the summer and increasing it in the shoulder season. 

‘Workations’ was also a key discussion topic and could be a large growth market for both domestic and international visitors if a lot more organisations start to follow the Virgin model i.e. flexibility for employees to complete their work whenever and wherever they want. 

Demographic changes also means that with an increasingly elderly population – there will be more and more pensioners looking for experiences and holidays with money to burn!

On a final note, although attendees agreed that what the industry needs most at the moment is for visitors to return (and core, long term funding for DMOs), all noted that The Tourism Alliance and its members are currently lobbying the Government ahead of next month’s Budget for:

  • An ongoing reduction in VAT for tourism and hospitality businesses
  • Extending the furlough scheme for tourism and hospitality businesses until restrictions are fully lifted
  • A reduction in business rates

If your destination or tourism organisation needs support or advice with any of the above challenges as we head into the unknown territory that is 2021, Go To Places offers a range of solutions such as tried and tested campaigns, destination management planning and consultancy, visitor research, website development and marketing. Our latest product is Destination in a Box which provides a long term, sustainable solution for local authorities and DMOs. Get in touch ➡️




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