New Tourism Partnership Moving Ahead With Plans

Duchy Land Steward, Chris Gregory, is Chairing the new tourism partnership

Scilly’s new Tourism Partnership hopes to have a tourism manager in place by the end of summer.

The body, which amalgamates Island Tourism, Island Marketing and the Council Tourist Board, was recommended by consultants Blue Sail as a means of simplifying and strengthening our tourism offer and promotion of Scilly.

An interim board has set up a company and there’ll be a constitution agreed in the next few weeks.

Island Marketing, which is made up of the Duchy, Tresco Estate, the Council, together with Island Tourism and travel operators, have handed over their marketing cash.

The partnership will continue to use Mercury PR to encourage press articles about Scilly and the new group will be in charge of producing the brochure from this summer.

Chris Gregory, who is chairing the group, says it will be “business as usual” with the brochure, but says they can’t change everything straight away.

In particular, the TIC will continue to be operated by the Council but in partnership with the new body.

From Radio Scilly

Hear the full interview with Chris Gregory

How much emphasis will be placed on the printed guide or emerging web and device-enabled promotional tools will be assessed in the future.

A Local Action Group funding request will soon be submitted so they can recruit and fund a manager to develop operations.

He or she will be based in Scilly and the Duchy will make accommodation available. They’ll be paid around the same amount as a middle-ranking Council employee.

Chris says they’ve done their homework on pay levels and the package will be attractive in the current economy, but the appointment won’t necessarily come from the pubic sector. He says they’ll be looking for someone entrepreneurial since the position holder will have to develop income streams for the future to sustain their funding.

Recruitment ads will be placed soon in national publications and the hope is to have someone in position by the end of summer.

The partnership’s main goal will be to stop any further fall in visitor numbers through more targeted marketing. Chris is concerned that Blue Sail’s surveys found that some potential visitors felt Scilly had ‘nothing’ to offer them.

Travel costs are dissuading some visitors and while the new group won’t lobby travel operators as such, if prices are repelling tourists they will express that view to them.

They will also question the no-Sunday-travel policy, especially when the Islands may want to remove any barriers to travel.

Travel costs and no-sunday travel could be putting visitors off

Chris says some travellers find it quaint, but some also find it “extraordinary” that they can’t get here on a Sunday.

He says if that’s repelling a large proportion of people coming here, the industry “has to ask itself if that is a cost it’s willing to bear.” And he says the answer to that might be different in the current financial climate than it was 10 years ago.

The Blue Sail advice was that middle-class, higher earners aren’t dissuaded by travel cost and that means the marketing effort will be concentrated on attracting well-healed Southerners.

There’ll be moves to “up the game” with service quality and value for money but Chris says they won’t act as police or quality regulators. This will only work if people buy into the partnership’s vision, he says.

The board hopes there will be a sizeable take-up of membership and those joining will access a range of services, such as training and sharing of knowledge that will assist their business.

Chris says they haven’t set the rate for membership yet but they have discussed the matter.

The partnership want to make it as affordable as possible but at the same time, they need the money to be able to deliver. “There’s no point in pretending you can do this for nothing,” he added.

There are plans for the Council’s tourism website to show which accommodation providers in Scilly have vacancies, from the middle of next month.

It’s the first time has revealed where there are spaces and the businesses will appear using a random selection process so it is fair.

But the development isn’t going as far as offering online booking. Plans to add that function to the official Tourist Board site proved controversial four years ago and they were dropped.

Businesses will be able to log in and update their own availability themselves and Council TIC staff will receive training on the new system next week.

Julian Pearce of the Council’s Economic Development team says the site needs a refresh, as there’s been little site maintenance since the current version went live in 2008. The upgraded version will be easier to search and will offer tabs allowing users to click on each accommodation listing for more information.

The redesign is part of web company, New Mind’s £12,000 website contract with the Council.

Web enquiries are down 10% year-on-year says Julian but the number of brochure downloads have remained constant.