Islands Partnership Says Scilly Can Still ‘Fight Its Way To The Top’

islands partnership logoThirty islanders attended the first St Mary’s public meeting of the new tourism body, the Islands’ Partnership, last night. And those attending say they were impressed by the breadth of promotional work being undertaken.

Juliet May, the former Chairman of Island Tourism, which was dissolved for the new body, said she found the enthusiasm of the presentations encouraging.

Chris Gregory started by purposefully removing his tweed jacket. He said that was to show that he was present as the Partnership Chairman and not the Duchy Land Steward.

He warned that the Partnership’s action list is vast and that ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’ He told the audience that he is regularly stopped in the street by locals who tell him how dire things are.

Many of the many reasons for the downturn were out of local control said Chris and he recounted conversations with Cornish tourism leaders, claiming they’re having the same experience.

The tourism marketplace is changing at “a rate of knots” he said, and people follow different holiday patterns now. Chris said that when visitors sample Scilly, we’ll be lucky to get them back within ten years, as there are more holiday options available.

One of the biggest problems that the Partnership is tackling is the incorrect perception that Scilly is hard to access, now the helicopters have ceased.

When asked about supporting FRIST, Chris explained that the Partnership was neutral and could not become involved in that debate at this stage as it would divert attention.

It was a myth that “we have to explode” and he promised that the Partnership’s promotion at the Royal Cornwall Show would “shout loudly” that Scilly is accessible.

Guesthouse owner Ann Hall referred to a recent Independent newspaper article that inaccurately presented a warning of how hard and expensive travel to Scilly was. Ann was told that the Partnership would write to publications asking for corrections to online content. But they could do little to amend press reporting unless journalists were being hosted as part of an arranged trip, where they’d be given the correct information.

The Partnership have decided that all marketing will now highlight the range of travel options available. They have worked in tandem with the Steamship Company to jointly produce and fund 250,000 leaflets offering suggestions for activities in Scilly. Those are now found all over venues in West Penwith.

On the net, the Partnership is pleased with the viewing levels of their YouTube adverts for the islands.

Online activity will be increased. Since January, viewing of the revamped Simply Scilly website has increased by 34%. There’ll be a new, redeveloped site in the future but Chris Gregory diplomatically avoided a question from the floor that asked whether online accommodation booking would feature. Plans to introduce that to the Tourist Board website were dropped in 2008 after they proved highly contentious.

The promotion of local produce will be a key area for online and hard copy promotion. Joint Manager Amanda Pender explained that  “food sells” and she revealed the results of a recent survey, which stated that most holidaymakers looked forward to dining and drinking.

Newly appointed Food and Drink Champion Issy Tibbs spoke passionately about how Scilly could promote our local produce. The international horsemeat scandal had raised interest in food provenance and Issy encouraged locals to make the most of the fact that you can point out of the window to show where a guest’s clotted cream has come from.

Issy intends promoting Scilly produce in print and broadcast media as part of her role, which is funded until the end of the year.

Chris briefly addressed how the Partnership would fund activities when current grant money is exhausted. There will be a significant request for the industry to offer support and he said businesses, “need to do a great deal more” as the Partnership requires funds to sell Scilly.

Chris expects all business that benefits from visitors to join, claiming, “this is about Scilly and a sense of responsibility goes with that.”

There will also be elections to the Partnership board in September and two-thirds of existing directors will stay on to provide continuity.

They won’t know until the end of summer whether their work has bucked the downward trend in visitor numbers. But he’s confident that we, “can fight our way to the top of the stack.”

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