One of Go To Places’ most successful campaigns is its Big Weekend model, which targets the lucrative visiting friends and relatives market. It is a highly affordable ‘out-of-the-box’ campaign that brings ROI at low cost and low risk and can be adapted to any destination.
The idea for The Big Weekend started in Kent and came from a desire to make preparations for its welcome in the run up to The Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012. Our research told us that over half of those visiting Kent were stimulated by visiting friends and family, but we also discovered that their local hosts were surprisingly ill-informed about what was on their own doorstep, so when visitors came they tended to go to tried and tested places – the same places – rather than risk trying somewhere new.
We needed to turn residents into better informed advocates – and so the Kent Big Weekend was born. Before the pandemic, the county welcomed over 65m visitors each year, contributing nearly £4 billion to the local economy. A key contributing factor to this growth has been the engagement of the friends and family market.
Key objectives of the Big Weekend are to:
• Leverage the valuable Visiting Friends and Family market
• Help showcase the breadth of experiences in a destination
• Re-engage communities with the fantastic attractions on their doorstep
• Help to deliver repeat business
• Kick start (or extend) the tourism season and give tourism businesses the opportunity to reach new audiences
The campaign encourages local attractions to donate numerous free tickets to be used over one weekend (usually during English Tourism Week in the Spring), with local residents bidding for the tickets in an online ballot.
Kent launched its Big Weekend in 2006 followed by Hertfordshire in 2016 and Essex in 2017. Jersey, East Sussex and Norwich launched the campaign in 2021. Read our case study about The Big Weekend in Kent and Jersey.
What are the benefits?
Post event research shows that the campaign generates a significant impact in its own right, with substantial media coverage prompting visits past the event but also in terms of secondary spend on retail catering for additional visitors.
The concentration of the activity over one weekend creates a county-wide buzz and all participating attractions benefit from a wealth of marketing support across digital channels, social media, regional press and radio, and increased customer interaction. Both the destination and the businesses benefit from a major brand awareness campaign.
Tourism businesses and residents find the event rewarding and beneficial. Importantly they agree overwhelmingly that for very busy attractions it acts as not only a thank you to residents for playing their part in welcoming visitors but it also leads to greater awareness of the importance of the visitor economy to the locale amongst key stakeholders, politicians and the media. Residents become more likely to recommend visits to the area to friends and family in other locations following their Big Weekend experience.
Working with Go To Places
Go To Places can offer destinations a bespoke support package, using our extensive expertise in destination marketing and project delivery to meet a destination’s needs.
Within the Big Weekend package, Go To Places will provide a dedicated website, an easy-to-use yet highly sophisticated content management system with full training, web support, and a full marketing and communications tool kit. Our knowledge and experience in partnership working will also help a destination to secure more businesses and get the very best inclusion in the campaign.
Visit Essex says.........
"The Big Weekend has helped raise awareness of Visit Essex as a leading destination management organisation within the county, adding another marketing dimension to our activities and offering us a way to connect directly with our businesses, as well as the general public." Carol Jolly, Marketing & PR Manager
Find out how your destination can run The Big Weekend campaign