Visitor Decline Can Be Reversed Says New Marketing Agency

The marketing experts who won the contract to promote the islands on behalf of the Tourism and Business Partnership will visit Scilly next week.

Dave Meneer of Truro-based agency, Wolf Rock, says he hopes to talk to the Partnership board, as well as islanders who work in tourism, about their recent experiences.

Dave has been visiting the islands for 47 years and stays regularly with the Wakefields on the Garrison.

And he believes it is possible to reverse the year-on-year decline in visitor numbers.

Dave says he understands that some visitors have been priced out of the market but is confident that well-heeled families and comfortably-off retirees can be encouraged to sample Scilly.

From Radio Scilly

Dave Meneer from Wolf Rock talks to Radio Scilly

For some would-be visitors, the attraction of the islands’ beauty outweighs the negative aspects of the travel costs, he says, and he wants to work with transport providers to see how getting here can be made clearer.

Dave says the Blue Sail consultant’s report, published in 2011, was clear about who we should be attracting. Now his team will work on getting that message out there.

And he says the changing trends in tourism, such as the ‘four-day weekend visit’ need to be explored.

He’s also keen to encourage more visitors from Devon and Cornwall.

Dave says the ‘product’ here in Scilly is wonderful, and people often become evangelical about the place once they visit. He says that needs to be tapped into as you can’t beat word-of-mouth to get the message out.

Social networking and online promotion will form part of the strategy because traditional print and television ads are too expensive and not targeted enough.

He said new media is slowly becoming used by all parts of society, including more elderly tourists who probably wouldn’t have used it ten years ago.

 



33 Responses to Visitor Decline Can Be Reversed Says New Marketing Agency

  1. PAT December 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    I agree with a lot of what has been said in these post.
    But first we need to get people working together. and at the moment most of them are to busy nick picking.. so come on lets start putting our energy into working together…

    And lighten up a bit… Think happy thoughts!!
    that’s what i keep telling myself, ha ha
    Christmas is on the way.
    wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year
    i mean its less than 3 weeks away!!
    come on lets party!! blah blah blah yes I’m going mad!! ha ha

  2. Steven December 4, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Katie, I’m sorry if your experience of self catering on Scilly has been “dicey” but I think you are wrong to tar everyone with the same brush.

    Whilst there may be some less than perfect accommodation I’m sure that is true of everywhere. More than 50% of Sciilly’s self catering offered by the TB are 4 star or better and from what I can see prices are far from extortionate compared with mainland UK prices and in many cases very reasonable.

    I’m sure that if a person has a limited budget you are right, Scilly might not be the place to come, but with the cost of travel, and the very high cost of living in the Isles of Scilly isn’t that to be expected?

  3. Katie F December 4, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Kirsty, I think that there is a difference between B and B and self-catering. The good self-catering is extortionate, the bad self-catering is miserable. Many young families want to go into self-catering accommodation. If I had a limited holiday budget, I’d spend the same money elsewhere. Remember that lots of B and Bs don’t take young children etc. My family’s experience of the B and Bs on St. Mary’s has been overwhelmingly positive, but my experience of the self-catering has been dicey to say the least.

  4. Lawrence Upton December 4, 2012 at 11:14 am

    My first attempt to post went technical. I’ll word process this.
    I, too, had had my say. My sole intention was to dispute your advice, Peter, as I suspected it had no foundation. That makes it dangerous, doubly so now that we know you disparage what you call “green issues”.
    I decided not to say more unless the response was ad hominem; and in its tone it teeters on that.
    My point is not philosophical – 0/10 for making “philosophical” a kind of put down. If I wanted to bring Philosophy into it, I would suggest “Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent”
    My only point of any kind is that what a person chooses to believe is not automatically a fact.
    The main problem is government which does pick n mix on principles to suit venal policy and probably dismisses arguments according to the particularly fashionable prejudice of the time and using the favourite cliches: “real world”, “pay our way” etc.
    Something small might be done locally. I have pointed to my experience. That is hardly objective and maybe no one shares it. When I have expressed it face to face, it has never been denied; but I am told there is no hope of changing anything.
    Simple name recognition might be a target for advertising-marketing types. A considerable number of people, if I don’t know them well, ask me “How was Italy?” and so on.
    Perhaps there is accommodation overcharging by some. It helps to remember that freight costs are high. Whether they are too high I cannot say because I do not have profit and loss figures for the companies.
    One reason for a drop in numbers might well be the weather. Anyone with a PC can check rainfall, temperature and so on. I do it myself all the time. The weather has been foul for ages. I do know of people going home early because of it.
    That’s it. No more. My little store of “knowledge” is depleted.

  5. Stavropol December 4, 2012 at 10:46 am

    Apologies for my spelling errors, iPads are not the easiest to use on this site, I cannot scroll back to check it. Please fix it for iPads guys!

  6. kirsty December 4, 2012 at 10:30 am

    I am fed up with people moaning about the prices of accomadation.There are plenty of places to stay which offer a high standard and at a c0mpetitive price..! our prices are no different to the mainland despite the extra costs which we have living on an Island..!

  7. Stavropol December 4, 2012 at 10:20 am

    I am confused a little at Adam’s ‘let the bottom fall out the market’ comment, he has a business reliant on tourism, does he have no interest or desire to succeed in that?

    Proactive action is required. Every business must strive, wether big or small to keep overheads low and drive efficiency whenever possible. That is the capitalist economy we live in wether you like it or not, be competitive or become the Isles on the Dole!
    We all know that won’t even buy you enough food to live on in the coop!

    Wether by boat or preferably larger aircraft, in my opinion, efficiency largely comes with scale.

    Larger planes, cheaper fares, greater reliability, more convenient and faster travel options.

    Time is money, and also holiday, the longer spent traveling the less people feel they have got out of their holiday. That is why, if the boat option is unfortunately chosen, it would have to be faster and sail twice a day, it gives people choice, that is what we are all luck enough to have and we like exercise that right. The helicopter gave us that choice. The IOSSSC does not give enough choice, people don’t like that.

    It took a spell away from the Islands for me to see what makes them And the world tick, unfortunately some local comments appear typically apathetic of the situation. Please please please people of Scilly, stand up and be counted, seak to better your lot, you have the commodity, exploit it not to the max, but to a sustainable level of profitability.

  8. Steven December 4, 2012 at 9:37 am

    Susan.

    Accommodation on Scilly is assessed by Visit England/AA using the same methods that are used nationally. Take the B&Bs for example. Of the 37 listed on the Simply Scilly website 73% are 4 stars or higher. And a quick comparison with similar B&Bs in Cornwall shows that the prices are very competitive with mainland prices in similar accommodation.

    Is it really fair to suggest that all the accommodation is over priced and sub standard?

  9. Peter December 3, 2012 at 9:00 pm

    Sorry to other readers, but this could become the Peter v Lawrence show. Lawrence: this is only an internet messageboard. I don’t have to give statistically valid, research-based arguments. That’s the job of councillors and local government officers. It would be nice to think they read these messages. My only aim is to get people worked up about the issues to combat what I see as apathy. So, in view of the flurry of postings now on this topic, I think, to coin a phrase, my work here is complete. Lawrence: I’m sure your philosophical points about the nature of debate and of knowledge are sound, but this is the Scilly Today messageboard, not the Oxford Union! As I keep saying, I’m just trying to stir things up a bit. Personally, I don’t have much time for the green issues. If you try to adopt green approaches when it comes to tourism you might as well forget holidaying in Scilly. Whatever way you get there will spew out carbon. Best to stay home and not pollute by travelling. Anyway, I’d better not go on, cos this becomes a new topic. By all means do reply, but I think I’m outta here now, unless I can’t resist…

  10. Susan December 3, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Passenger transport, cost and accommodation standards are the critical issues to focus on, it’s as simple as that! Flights and the ferry (including the boatmen association) are just far too expensive! Being the cost down of all of these and you’re onto a winner. Reliability of transport is also an issue, a hard surface at lands end will alleviate most of this trouble but also better navigational aids at every airport is required. Granted, you cannot change the weather, but at least you would have minimised disruption by at least trying to tackle it. And can all of the accommodation providers over here please get off their high horse and drop your prices, it’s ridiculous what people have to pay for sub standard accommodation!

  11. Lawrence Upton December 3, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    Peter
    Arguing by assertion is not debate (“research which would prove my point”). Agreeing with people you already agree with is not debate. (“x puts it well. Debate at last.)
    I rather suspected you didn’t have the figures; but it was only courtesy to ask. I don’t know you and you might have had them. It’s deeply saddening that you make such expensive proposals without knowing the facts are on your side.
    I do not think we can have the luxury of believing you are right without evidence. Not at the end of the day when all’s said and done.
    Having raised the possibility that either of us could be right you assert that you are right i.e. that existing research, which you do not have, would prove you right.
    You are in no position to say that because… you do not have the research.
    “I don’t think we can afford that luxury.” is a little odd, you know a little Messianic. You say yourself that you believe it shows a changing visitor profile. Perhaps it shows something else too. And anyway what conclusions can we draw?
    I’ll say again: beware of confusing coincidence and correlation.
    What comes out of research is largely a product of how the data is collected – how it is structured & how it is asked. I remember the last visitor survey I was and it was not impressive.
    But you tell me that we do not have the luxury of bothering with such matters.
    We are rather near that well-known exclamation: “Well we have to do something” meaning, apparently, we must do anything.
    And then of course, some time later, when things are worse, we say: “lessons will be learned.
    Scilly is too small to do any more changing and concreting until it is certain that it is needed.
    One needs to start from the maximum number of people that can stay overnight. Then one has to know the likely number of arrivals for any proposed solution to the perceived problem. Do they match?
    And so on.
    I doubt that many more aircraft is a solution to anything.
    The loss of the helicopter is serious short term. The Lands End service could well be improved short term. But this is temporary because there is a far bigger crisis at hand and when that really hits you’ll get a very large “We are all in this together and you are on your own”.
    Ecologically sustainable transport is required. Urgently. I said something like that a while back on another thread here and one person said they didn’t know what my point is.
    Aircraft destroy the environment and should be used as little as possible. That’s my point.
    A decent ferry is needed.
    The problem here is with the government which is only paying lip service to global warming…
    A decent ecologically sustainable ferry. Not needed just here; everywhere.
    I have no immediate solution to this and previous governments uselessness… But it doesn’t help if the rest of us assert our particular beliefs and dismiss evidence as a luxury: we have ministers and ex-ministers for that.
    What can we do?
    Make a noise…
    I suspect we are in very deep trouble.
    Locally, we need to bully the steamship company and FGW into changing practices.
    Then at least we might do something to undermine the people who moan they can’t teletransport. We’d be in a position to say ‘there there’ It’s not so bad.
    Scilly doesn’t need that many.
    I have said that to a few people and they have responded to the effect that will not happen.
    OK
    So we might walk into the sea and drown then? Or just sit down and wait for the 6 degree rise to have its effect.
    A colleague was sitting beside me earlier and asked when I was returning to the islands because he has just started advising a hotel chain keen to build 300 bed hotels in unique areas. I had mentioned the transport problem and he added that it would be worth their while fixing that. Maybe, he said, Islanders could vacate one of the islands and turn that into an island hotel and grounds. No? What about an uninhabited island?I mentioned wildlife but he seemed to think that was hardly a problem. Did the islands want to do business?
    Well, it is a 21st century solution. It wouldn’t help most existing businesses; but that may be a 22nd century solution.
    A little while back I booked a ticket with the steamship company and everything went well until the security routine which fell over. It showed me an internal error message so it does not appear to have been installed well. Had I booked or hadn’t I? I didn’t have a phone so I emailed; but I didn’t hear for days. Later it turned out that email had been down for days.
    Seemingly it did not occur to the company to put a note on their website to the effect that email was down. (There is an idea abroad that changing a web page is highly skilled.)
    When contact resumed, the matter of the security routine was dismissed as nothing to do with them because that was not the company’s but the bank’s.
    I have met this before – with a different card. Ask the supplier and they blame the bank. Ask the bank and they blame the supplier. Nothing happens. The unpredictable software staggers on.
    I can only guess, but I guess that the latest problem I refer to has not been referred to anyone so it can honestly be said that there have been no reported problems.
    Everything is somebody else’s problem. I suspect B T apologised for the inconvenience of email being down; and that in the unlikely event someone took it further they would say “we are sorry you feel that way”
    I suspect, no more than that, I make no assertion, that if you could get rid of the “Somebody Else’s Problem” which nowadays afflicts the Steamship company ( but did not use to) and always has FGW, if through journeys were facilitated, then there would be a considerable benefit to tourism.

  12. Ken Wilkins December 3, 2012 at 1:03 pm

    As a regular visitor to the Isles for the last thirty years or so with my family I’ve never really worked out why the airport doesnt open on Sundays, that would increase trade as many of us who would have come for a weekend wouldnt have done so owing to the need to fly home on a Saturday. I read somewhere that in the summer St Marys was the fifteenth busiest airport in the country in respect of arrivals/departures, how many of those airports close on a Sunday?
    Also the prices of transport have to be reduced, for the price of a return trip on Skybus I can fly just about anywhere in Europe. Low cost carriers have made these type of opportunities available. It’s all too easy to argue, ‘Ah, but Scilly is unique’, yes but so are the Krakows, Dubrovniks, Istanbuls and Barcelonas et al that people looking for a spell aware will compare the islands against.
    The ‘ostrich’ syndrome has prevailed too long in the community, Scilly needs to wake up and smell the coffee!

  13. Jon Martin December 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I don’t believe the answer is in bigger fixed winged aircraft joke or not, A Dash 7 can land and take off on St Mary’s runway but that is unladen, for it to be a viable option the main runway would need to be about as half as long as what it is already costing too much in money and environment and with the airport being so exposed cross winds could quite easily be a factor limiting flights. It would however create some jobs in the Airport Fire Service needing to up the Category and I’m sure more check in staff etc but I doubt this would outweigh the other costings.
    What Scilly really needs is a much better Ferry Service all year round, A bigger boat something comparable to the Calmac Ferries servicing the likes of the Isle of Arran etc.., not only would it carry more Passengers and Freight making it cheaper, it would be faster and less of a spewing machine in the oh so common rough seas.
    I used to live on Scilly and my family is still there and I love the place and would be back every year on holiday … but for a family of 5 it is alot cheaper for us to go on a sun filled holiday to the Canaries etc… with warmer weather pretty much guaranteed. The majority of us are all alot less well off than we were 3 to 4 years ago and Scilly for us is now a VERY expensive luxury which I’m sure is the same for alot of other families that used to frequent the islands.

    • Adam Morton,St.Martins December 3, 2012 at 7:24 pm

      I’m not sure about a bigger ferry, the one we have is only usually a third full however I suspect a large part of the reason for that is the “spewing “for which reason a multihull is the only thing that will take out the pitching & rolling which causes it. Also the two and three-quarter hr journey doesn’t help. Much though I would like to see a year round service for those of us on lower budgets, it has to be remembered that the IOSSCO laid up Scillonian III in winter as there was no demand as even those on free passes chose to pay to fly. This is probably as a result of the huge drop in flower trade which could no longer subsidise the winter service. The Calmac design ferries are coming under increased criticism for their inefficiency and in my mind are defiantly not to be copied as they only exist because of huge state subsidies. They are being undercut in some cases by UN subsidised private sector shipping firms. It is these I think we should be watching. I am not a keen supporter of air travel due to its inefficiency with fuel but one does have to wonder when you see the ship unloading 30 or forty passengers after using probably a couple of thousand horsepower for 2&3/4 hrs or a helicopter using much the same horsepower doing two or three trips in the same time? There is no doubt a ship is more efficient, when it’s full! I suspect that also a twin otter with much lower horse power and higher speed could currently be more efficient? Possibly why steamer prices are so high comparatively? Key I think is getting as much as we can afford and as far down the wish list as possible. In my mind the most complained about thing by the visitors is the price, this could be brought down by filling the ship and sharing the cost between more people, next is the discomfort; as I said a multihull preferably not carrying freight as this would cost much more power, fuel & expense however if shortening the journey time were not expected then a medium speed cat could carry both I would think.

  14. Adam Morton,St.Martins December 3, 2012 at 12:55 am

    I think the sooner the bottom drops out of the industry completely the sooner we can start again. We have no need of all the drastic plans for airports or marketing groups proposing tried and failed policy. I have spent a good deal of time doing research of my own and as far as I can see there is nothing to stop the Islands sorting out their own problems with no outside help: nothing that is but politics self interest and monopolies. When there are enough desperate people and its impacted far enough down the line to be felt by enough then perhaps we will see some cooperation but that won’t be for a year or two yet! Not till a few million more is wasted on pointless exercises that bring no financial benefit to the customer. I have seen lots of weird & wonderful ideas & scenarios on these pages and elsewhere but I did find one that seemed better thought out than most when I was trying to find out what the “rout Partnership “ was . If you put Trythall shipping in Google it makes an interesting read and includes short runway aircraft that carries 30 people! As well as a far more affordable ferry solution.

  15. Peter December 2, 2012 at 11:11 pm

    YES! Debate at last. Stavropol puts it well. I look at this website regularly and am gobsmacked at the apathy: usually little more than trivia about craft fairs or whatever (which normally would be good and all part of the slow pace and human scale which we Scilly-lovers find such a tonic to our mainland lives) whilst the islands’ main industry is in meltdown. I suspect most of those posting on here are mainlanders who seem more concerned that Scilly is going to the wall than do those who stand to lose their livelihoods. I’ll just lose a few holidays. Prove me wrong please. Lawrence: of course I don’t have the figures you ask me for. I have no proof whatsoever. I’m not a local government official. Shall we just wait and see whether you are right or I am right? I don’t think we can afford that luxury. Stavropol hits the nail on the head in pointing to incompetent local councillors who are seeming to do little in this crisis. They do have access to the kind of research which would prove my point about changing visitor profiles. See the Blue Sail report. Duncan: for some reason your name was “bleeped” out in my last post. Does the software recognise your name as a swearword?! Nobby: I do think you ARE taking the michael re 737s, despite your protestations. However, I have looked into this issue some weeks ago. Dornier make a turbo prop plane which needs a relatively short runway (longer than St Mary’s though still) which takes 33 passengers. See youtube. But I have no specialist knowledge. Move the refuse tip from near the hospital and use it as foundations for a runway extension. That would only be swapping one eyesore for another. Surely there has to be a tourism crisis summit involving all the local stakeholders: hoteliers, restauranteurs, council, Steamship company, airport, Duchy etc etc. Then agreement. Then cordinated action. Or kelp-farming.

  16. Lawrence Upton December 2, 2012 at 5:14 pm

    Hi Peter

    As you believe we are of the same mould, I’d just like to check your working, because I am not convinced. Could you let me have your figures showing quote “there aren’t enough people like you and me left to make … Scilly … viable much longer. ”

    I have a personal cliche. I often accuse people of trying to play chess using drafts’ moves. Not thinking ahead. Making assumptions. So I’d also like to know the figures for each of the proposals for contracting to larger aircraft, new journeys, more tarmac. Presumably this has been calculated before it has been recommended. Otherwise how do we know that there will be enough accommodation etc to support the influx / investment?

    I am absolutely sure a lot of people say it is too complicated to get to Scilly. Their minds can be changed. That’s why some advertising helps. Or do you want more and more people wandering around expecting to be entertained?

    Maybe they could be offered some simple instructions on how to get over the hassles. The steamship company and first great western could both learn from National Express.

    It’s such a hassle trying to compare dates and availability.

    I am NOT praising National Express. It’s a terrible way to travel. I was once asked what I meant by wanting to stay on a bus going north that they wanted to curtail at Preston. Why hadn’t I got off at Lancaster if that’s what I wanted? My news that it was further north caused a flurry of maps. That cost them a taxi.

    Or when I declined a particular bus via Helston to Penzance and suggested one going to St Ives, they asked if I knew how difficult it is to get from North Cornwall to South Cornwall. And were surprised when I told them about the (grotty) bus service to do the 8 – 10 mile journey. Was I sure?

    But their website works well. And they let you book well ahead. FGW only allow 3 months and are always late for that.

  17. Stavropol December 2, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Having read the posts above, I think most are in the same vein.
    It is absolutely critical the islanders take the bull by the horns and drive their own destiny. Set your sights high and work to that goal together.
    An absolute minimum is a longer runway capable of carrying bigger aircraft with navigational aids for lower visibility approach.
    The biggest hurdle to this are the people themselves, you have to act now or quite frankly lose your market share and ultimately income. The globe is smaller and cheaper and easier to explore than ever before so if you can’t make the travel bit seamless it is a big minus, loss of market share occurs and in an already limited market, disaster.
    The government have made their call on subsidies so I see one of only two scenarios:
    1. Islanders unite to push and find funding to improve the transport links, offering seamless transport options and get together to offer good standards of accommodation. The council have a lady in charge of getting European money, that officer steps up to the plate and earns their money.
    2. The status quo remains, visitor numbers decline, businesses fold, property prices crash, everyone does it hard for at least 2 years until the government wakes up because the HMRC computer spits the dummy wondering what is going on with enormous drops in revenue. Then they decide to subsidise a helicopter and it takes another 2 years of near poverty before the market share begins to improve.

    The second one is my favorite at the moment given the apparent poor local council officer performance and divided council, a community unable to unite due to polarized political opinions, and general community apathy for any change. We’ll be okay they say, we’ve always managed.
    Wake up! The world has changed since the helicopter service arrived, it became a critical part of the Scilly economy helping it to grow far beyond its prospects, but more importantly became entwined with economic growth in the islands as the world changed outside. Without equivalent transport links the prospects are are reduced to not much better than those in the early sixties. Since then the islands economy has grow fat on the profits of its uniqueness. It’s back to post war rations I’m afraid without some driving force for improvements.

    • Nobby Nobbs December 2, 2012 at 5:05 pm

      I think Pat’s response to my suggestion sums up the Scillioinian attitude!
      A quick look on wikipedia will tell you that a 737 is not a massive plane at around 35m length which could easily be accommodated on a purpose built Tresco runway
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/737-300#737-300

      As to the lady who gets the island European grants, her name is Diana and as far as I’m concerned she is the only council officer worth her salt, unfortunately she is leaving us for sunnier climes.

      I think your last paragraph sums it up nicely

  18. Pat December 2, 2012 at 5:12 am

    I reckon in a couple of years we will all look back and have a chuckle !! 2012/13 the year when the population on Silly nearly had a revolution. !!
    Nobby love the joke Boeing 737 ?? . ha ha

  19. Nobby Nobbs December 1, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    The answer I believe lies in building a runway that can accommodate a Boeing 737 which can carry 85-215 people, and is used by all the short haul airlines, then Scilly could become a destination that is connected to all the UK and European airports bringing in visitors from all over at a reasonable price, not to mention islanders could go visit without the need for a tedious and expensive mainland detour.

    I suggest that Tresco is flattened to accommodate the new runway as it would provide enough length end to end and would provide Tresco estate a new means of income.

    Scilly’s biggest barrier to survival is it’s attitude to change and the lack of any strategic thinking on the part of the council which just crashes from one crisis to the next with no thought of what to do for the future

  20. Peter December 1, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    My reply here is mainly to Lawrence Upton, but reflects my agreement with those who posted subsequent to me above. Lawrence: I agree largely with what you say. I suspect you and I are of the same mould. But my point is that there aren’t enough people like you and me left to make the Scilly “product” (thank you ******) viable much longer. Obviously, I don’t want Scilly to become like Benidorm, but I’m trying to provoke some debate about how far Scilly does need to go in something akin to that direction. And I think you are right in a way to challenge some of my suggestions. Crikey, I really do deep down want Scilly to stay as it is, but I fear it can’t. I’ve posted previously suggesting (initially tongue-in-cheek, then in view of the airport’s problems slightly seriously) that St Mary’s airport could copy Madeira airport which is largely built on stilts over the sea. If visitors cannot travel to the islands then there are no visitors. What I’m really trying to do by posting is to be provocative so as to stir up some debate, because I fear that apathy is the biggest danger. After I posted my last contribution on this topic (above), I copied it to the marketing agency and had an immediate welcoming reply from them. They directed me to the 2011 Blue Sail report “The Future of Tourism on Scilly” (link on Scilly Council website tourism page), which, reassuringly for me, said virtually everything I was trying to say about the current state of the Scilly holiday experience, only more succinctly! One phrase in the report stood out: “And there are visitors who are loyal devotees who will ‘make do’ with sub-standard quality and service”. Come on, people: debate!

  21. Duncan Slater December 1, 2012 at 9:41 am

    I am a frequent visitor to Scilly and have been since I was 18 months old (I’m now 46) – my last visit was this year. I’m a director of a marketing and branding agency too so this is a subject very close to my heart.

    They say the secret to effective branding is ‘a truth well told’ and in the case of Scilly I feel this is particularly true. The ‘product’ (mildly offensive I grant you but let’s call Scilly that) doesn’t need fixing. In fact, far from it – it is a perfect antidote to our over-connected, stressful society. It offers an opportunity to break from the ‘cut and thrust’ and connect with what’s really important. All that needs to happen is to present it to an AB (upmarket) audience and they will connect immediately. Yes it is expensive (there are many European holidays you can get for cheaper) but what we’re talking about here is not ‘value for money’ but ‘money for value’ – yes Scilly IS expensive but I’ve travelled round the world extensively and and nowhere (well, virtually nowhere) offers the same levels of relaxation and ‘reconnection’ (bit of a hippy term but you know what I mean).

    What DOES need fixing is a way to effectively market co-ordinated transport and accommodation. The islands are not big, this should not be beyond the wit of man (even in a post-BIH world). If we are to compare Scilly to a product, then it needs to be easier to ‘take off the shelf’ – yes, four-day weekends are a great idea, out-of-season and themed breaks are a great idea too but ‘the best family holiday you can have in the UK’ (which is what Scilly has always offered) is a fantastic proposition.

    The biggest enemy is a response I have heard several times “Scilly? Oh, I was going to go there but it was just too complicated”. Beat this and I really believe the visitor numbers will go back up (whether they’re posh or not).

    Sorry if that was a bit of a sermon but I’m glad I got it off my chest!

  22. Fraser Ramage November 30, 2012 at 9:01 pm

    Visitor Decline Can Be Reversed Says New Marketing Agency

    Bold words by Dave Meneer.

    The simple fact is that unless the transport infrastructure returns to where it was prior to the closure of the helicopter link you can market all you like but the Steamship Company will either not be able to cope with the demand or people will not want to use the modes of transport available. Once lost it will be difficult to entice them back.

    Of the 90,000 passengers plus who wished to travel to and from Scilly by helicopter last year, how many will want to use the Scillonian or Skybus?

    Until recently the helicopter service could boast a reliable, regular service less affected by weather than its competitor, offering a pleasurable means of travelling to Scilly and an alternative if Skybus or the Scillonian was not operating. This option of course was reciprocated and with the three different operations, passengers could more often than not get to and from Scilly by one means or another. Take any one of those away and you have a problem. The diversity of the three modes of transport was hugely beneficial giving different types of passenger the option most suitable for their individual requirements.

    The Isles of Scilly should be focussing on resurrecting the helicopter service, enticing a new operator to take on the challenge of providing a comprehensive all year round lifeline helicopter link, and imploring Cornwall Council and Andrew George to secure a site for a new heliport, which the community so desperately needs. Without it the future is definitely not bright.

    Another fixed wing operator may be interested, but they will encounter the same problems that Skybus have and will not be able to provide the capacity the helicopter did.

    Passenger numbers have declined over the past few years and Scilly is unlikely to return to the high visitor numbers experienced for a number of years post the 9/11 disaster, however they have been directly affected by the owners of British International, particularly in the last 4 years, ever since they were offered a large amount of money for the heliport from TESCO back in 2008. It was a get out of jail card. Debt ridden from paying twice the value of the Company when purchasing it in 2000, having had to refinance in 2003 and again in 2006, the sale would provide the funds to pay off a significant amount of the debt. The TESCO deal fell through, unfortunately Sainsbury’s then appeared on the scene, you know the rest. The point is that since the winter of 2008 BI became even less interested in the scheduled service to the Islands and more on other parts of its operation and achieving a successful sale of the heliport land.

    Lack of funds to maintain aircraft resulted in additional days lost for technical reasons, aircraft withdrawn from service for other contracts and a decision to reduce availability and restrict flights during peak periods, this was exacerbated this year when the Company withdrew the 0730 and 1800 flights from the summer schedule, resulting in a 28% drop in availability to and from St Mary’s. It was soul destroying turning customers away.

    The weather has contributed this year as well with the wettest summer for decades and the usual number of days affected by fog, but the biggest impact was as a result of BI’s strategy.

    The IOS Council needs to make operating an air link to and from the islands whether by fixed wing or helicopter far more attractive. The cost of landing at St Mary’s Airport and the passenger handling charges for an S61 carrying 60,000 passengers a year is in excess of £1/2M. A drop in the airport charges would assist operators in making air fares more attractive, this of course is dependant on having more than one operator, competition is healthy, not only for the community but it concentrates the mind of the operator. If a helicopter service returned, perhaps a sliding scale with regards to charges could be introduced, this would ensure a minimum income for the council and encourage the airlines to offer more availability and cheaper fares.

    There is a lot more that could and should have been done, but without the critical mass there will be no return to the good days.

    If only Cornwall Council and Penzance Chamber of Commerce had looked to the West before sealing Scillies fate.

  23. Lawrence Upton November 30, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Peter
    I hope you don’t take offence at what I am about to say. You did say “maybe negative comments can help us reflect and grow” – here’s your chance.
    I don’t find it helpful to read “no gain without pain” or to be encouraged to “think outside the box”
    These are phrases that have a general meaning but nothing in particular.
    And I find putting “21st century” in front of other words deeply confusing. Everything we do now is in this century.
    You say “There is a limited pool of people who want a holiday which consists of, well, not much really.” I wonder if it is that limited.
    I am on the edge of elderly myself now but I have been looking for places where there is not a lot to do all my life; so I am not sure that the potential visitors are confined to the elderly. You assert that.
    Let’s not confuse coincidence with causality.
    Bigger planes and airport extension are not a good idea, not unless you are able to extend St Mary’s.
    You do speak of what makes Scilly special; and thinking about “big players” reminds me of that road winding round Rodos, hotels all the way, with their own swimming pools so the clients don’t go near the real sea, often don’t step out the hotel except perhaps a day out in town where you’ll see ENGLISH SPOKEN, so you don’t have to face up to being in Greece, and the telling “We serve Greek food” sign (Yes, I know what’s happening to Greece. That’s not the point.)
    I do hope you are not right. Scilly doesn’t need modernising. TALK to the Islanders! They’re not stuck in the past, not the ones I know.
    Before we build a bigger airport, a long project, let’s see if we can’t determine what might be possible for the elderly and infirm in Scillonian’s replacement – which does have to come.
    Short breaks are a good idea.
    And maybe some advertising that says “ok so it takes a bit longer to get there, but so what?” or “but you can take it”…The advert people can do better than that; but sell the reality not a soft-focus falsity
    I have friends who look at me with wonder because I keep going to a place where I leave home one day and don’t arrive to the next, and where I always cautiously give a range of dates for return . Well, it was like that everywhere when I was young. It isn’t really any better now. Yes we have faster travel but we also have a climate that’s gone technical; and that IS causal.
    It isn’t true that everyone demands faster and faster travel. It’s nice in its place; but often the leisurely approach has its benefits.
    People who are selling fast travel who TELL us we all want faster travel.
    You know. a lot could be done by coordinating train arrivals and departures with boats and planes. Getting off the Scillonian and sitting in the station for nearly two hours is a pain.
    Having to stay overnight in Penzance because there isn’t time to get to the airport is a pain. But I suspect that both FGW and the Steamship company are into “that’s how we do it”

  24. Peter November 29, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Before I go on, I have been accused in another posting of generalising. Critical comments about specific aspects of Scilly do not constitute generalising about Scillonians. There is no gain without pain and maybe negative comments can help us to reflect and grow. Maybe – and I hope I’m wrong – Scilly’s golden days are over. Tourism in Scilly has only been a very brief aspect of its history, lasting maybe only sixty or so years, and perhaps we are nearing the end in the form that we assumed always was and always will be. The marketing company’s idea of targeting “well-heeled families and comfortably-off retirees” is hard to swallow. Just how much of a market is that? They already go elsewhere. The value of pension funds has plummeted in the last few years. Elderly people will not tolerate hassle-laden transport to the islands. There is a limited pool of people who want a holiday which consists of, well, not much really. Some of our non-Scilly loving friends ask “what do you do there which makes it so good?”. Our answer – “not a lot… but that’s the whole point” – leaves some of them baffled. The marketing people really cannot expect to re-build a holiday industry on the elderly, who, frankly will die, and so will the islands with them. If the wealthy ARE to be attracted then we need “wealthy” facilities (Tresco-ising all the islands). Some of the eating establishments (see note above re generalising please) on Scilly are pretty abysmal and wouldn’t survive on the mainland without a “captive” clientele (some are very good) and it’s taken us many years finally to find accommodation on Scilly which we are happy to return to, having put up with staying in some grotty places in order to enjoy the wider Scilly experience. With the demise of the helicopter, one of our elderly friends who adores Scilly is grief-stricken that she will not go again, as she feels the hassle of the train to ?Newquay/Penzance then transferring to Newquay Airport takes away the pleasure of the holiday. Fewer and fewer people want the stress of driving all the way to south-west airports when they can go abroad with less hassle. Don’t get me wrong, my wife and I love Scilly as it is and we have tolerated the hassle factors (eating out, accommodation, awkward travel) because we see the bigger picture, but – here’s my key point – there aren’t many people like us left, certainly not enough to sustain Scilly as we know it. So, the real solution, instead of trying to hang on to what was but is no more: think outside the box, massive re-brand, 21st century accommodation, 21st century restaurants, airport extension, flights from the north (and maybe northern France or Ireland) in bigger planes, short breaks (Sunday transport would have had us visiting far more times than we have), linking with the big players in the holiday industry, and winter deals. And the real question: how do you keep the essence of what makes Scilly special whilst making radical changes to make it a 21st century holiday destination? Will the Duchy allow such change, or is it back to kelp farming?

  25. Former Very Regular Visitor November 29, 2012 at 9:08 am

    I first visited Scilly in 1985 and have since been back over 50 times (last in 2007) my first 20 or so visits were as a single man before visiting with my now wife who fell in love with the place also.
    Unfortunately the cost of visiting has spiralled…… petrol, parking, flights, accomodation, food and inter island boats all now make Scilly possible only for the fairly well off, a great shame but I cant see visitor numbers increasing again without any subsidised travel or ‘offers’ as you say. I should also add most of my early visits were with skybus but when I got to the stage of 7 out of 8 flights cancelled or delayed through weather we switched to the chopper…..more reliable flights have to be a priority !!!!! (or subsidised year round boat) One of my best ever visits was a long weekend in the Star Castle one February (cheaper flights & a great BB & evening meal offer) so I would totally agree re year round weekends.

  26. June Jones November 28, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    I started visiting the Islands when i was six years old with my parents, I am now in my early sixties. My family and I have been visiting over the last five decades but unfortuately this year may be our last due to the rising costs of transport. The cost of flying two adults and our dogs, parking and petrol will amount to £700.
    The ‘ordinary’ visitors cannot keep up with the rising costs so the Islands will only be visited by a reduced number of wealthy tourists. Is this what the islanders want?

  27. Mike Vigar November 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    Steve, you are quite right. During the last recession, in the eighties, Skybus along with some hoteliers, and I mention George Teidemen at the Atlantic Hotel in particular, did introduce “short break fares” and they were very successful. Maybe this could be brought back and help to encourage more visitors, staying for shorter periods and probably spending more per day!

  28. Kev Wright November 28, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    The ads will be selected from your personal cookies. For example, I write for a music website, so I often see adverts for band’s new albums and gig tickets on here. People looking at holiday destinations or groups of islands are likely to see ads related to that. If we all went to the Steamship companies website several times a day we might get their ads!

    The same rules apply to my website, people see ads linked to what other net content they’ve been looking at.

  29. Keri Jones November 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Steve,
    Google selects the ads. We don’t. We have no control over them except to ask that more ‘adult’ material is never selected. Depending on where you are in the world, the ads will differ. When I look at Scillytoday in the US, for instance, there are different ads which have been sourced by Google.
    Regards
    Keri

  30. Steve November 28, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    And another thing – why are we advertising Thompsons Holidays and Cunard cruises on our website? Increasingly we need to see these operators as rivals for the tourist pound so let’s not given them any help by advertising their products. Can’t we persuade some of the Islands business to support the site by advertising on it? (I know an awful lot of regular visitors look at this site regularly as a way of keeping in touch with what is going on on Scilly)

  31. Steve November 28, 2012 at 12:17 pm

    I’ve long since thought that more should be done to attract “long weekenders” to the Islands but the current fare structure on flights really works against this – full fare or day trip rates only.
    Years ago the Steamship Company used to offer a discounted fare to those staying for 5 days or less and I believe the reintroduction of this type of discounted fare would give a much needed boost to tourism – particularly in the shoulder season.
    These days, a price conscious family of 4 needs to think long and hard before shelling out £600+ on flights. For many, the expenditure can only be justified if they are staying for a fortnight (think how few visiting families there were during May half term this year). Special “short break” fares would almost certainly help to attract those elusive “long weekenders” who are becoming even rarer than some of the seabirds who visit us each autumn!