David Jackson, Manager – Marketing Cheltenham
David Jackson, the Manager of Marketing Cheltenham introduced the update as circulated with the agenda. Marketing Cheltenham was officially launched in 2017 as the town’s official Destination Marketing Organisation (DMO), though it was noted that Marketing Cheltenham was an in-house, department of CBC, rather than a separate organisation. Under ‘Visit Cheltenham’ much of the initial delivery was outsourced via commissioned consultants, but seen as unsustainable, CBC made the decision to create Marketing Cheltenham, which now consists of five members of staff. Cheltenham BID, together with other stakeholders, have also committed financial support, with a fixed term commitment up to July 2021, which was set-up to bring it in line with the next BID ballot.
Marketing Cheltenham’s principal purpose was to lead the delivery of Cheltenham’s Visitor Economy Strategy, which sought to grow the town’s visitor economy by 5% p/a from 2019 to 2021, increasing from £155m in 2011, to £177m in 2021. It was noted that this level of growth was in-line with national strategy and that growth was currently on target.
This model was not dissimilar to other DMOs that had been created and towns and cities including Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Newcastle, York and Chester, had all reshaped their place identities in recent years, as well as having seen significant economic growth. By harnessing the potential of their cultural and visitor economies, these towns and cities had created thriving communities and places where people, especially the young, wanted to live and work; not simply visit.
Marketing Cheltenham had secured match funding commitments from Cheltenham BID and The Jockey Club to deliver shared marketing and event delivery programmes, as well as having over 100 private sector members, plus another 500 plus via an affiliate scheme with BID levy payers.
The work programme was aligned with the Visitor Economy Strategy and CBCs wider place marketing and inward investment ambitions; with 4 priorities which underpinned a principal aim, which was to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
In terms of marketing, the launch of The Festival Town branding in July last year, had created a much stronger identity and this continued to be adopted by partners across the town. In 2019 the visitcheltenham.com website received more than half a million visitors, which represented a 60% increase from 2018, whilst social media following and reach had doubled and Marketing Cheltenham secured PR and media coverage on the town at a national and international level, from the Times, FT and with some major online influencers and bloggers. Marketing Cheltenham had partnered with Cotswold Tourism on a major oversees tourism project, securing £250k from Visit Britain to grow international visitors to the region, selling Cheltenham as the ‘Gateway to the Cotswolds’, and they were hopeful of a further extension to the project in 2020/21. In order to grow the volume and value of business tourism in the town, a conference and venue finding service, Meet in Cheltenham, had been launched.
Marketing Cheltenham had taken the lead on developing an Events Strategy which provided a framework for CBCs support and delivery of events, as well directly managing and supporting the delivery of a range of high profile events alongside BID and CBC. They were also currently leading on a review of the Tourist Information Service in Cheltenham and this could involve Marketing Cheltenham taking on this service, which had previously migrated to the Cheltenham Trust.
In an effort to secure a future beyond 2021, Marketing Cheltenham recognised that it needed to capitalise on new opportunities and achieve a net ROI (Return on Investment) for CBC. It was relatively early days, but David felt that Marketing Cheltenham were performing well and advised members that success would be measured by KPIs relating to destination measures, organisational performance measures and marketing metrics.
The Manager of Marketing Cheltenham (MC) gave the following responses to member questions:
· MC worked closely with the Trust, particularly of late whilst working on the Tourist Information Centre project.
· A collaboration with the University of Gloucestershire for journalism students was being worked up at the moment, but there was more to do in terms of commercial linkages.
· MC worked closely with the Forest of Dean (FOD), not least because Kelly Ballard who was involved with the inception of MC, was now working at the FOD and there were long established collaborations between the FOD, CBC and the Costwolds. Notwithstanding the recent changes at Marketing Gloucester, Marketing Cheltenham also had a good relationship with colleagues in Gloucester. He felt that these relationships would continue to develop further, as the LEP took more interest in the tourism economy.
· MC were actively pursuing opportunities to meet oversees tour operators, from various regions, to discuss how Cheltenham could and should form part of their future tour programmes, and would continue to do so throughout the year.
· Evidence showed that much of the marketing that was done was also picked up locally, and this level of penetration of local audiences went towards driving people from major events, into the Town Centre.
· At the moment there was no close working with the foreign languages schools to promote return visits by students and their families, but this suggestion represented an opportunity which MC would look into further.
· Guidance, at a national level, suggested that if Coronavirus was anything like the SARs virus, markets would bounce back quickly with no legacy effect, though obviously this could change.
· MC did what they could to promote sustainable travel and the Events Strategy included a focus on ‘being green’. Many of the Northern European markets were touring markets which travelled by land.
· Outside of the major festivals there had been more than 1,600 events promoted via the Visit Cheltenham website over the last year and the title ‘Festival Town’ aimed to promote Cheltenham as a cultural destination rather than giving the message that people should only visit to attend a festival.
· MC already worked with the Playhouse and Everyman and MC were open to working with them more in the future.
· VisitBritain figures were based on the International Passenger Survey (IPS) of passengers when leaving the country, whereas the data being used by MC was collected locally and took consideration of bed stock, occupancy levels, etc, and were therefore more robust than the IPS.
The Chairman thanked the Manager of Marketing Cheltenham for producing an informative overview of the service and for his attendance, and asked that he return in early 2021, to provide facts and figures relating to performance, particularly focussing on the Return on Investment.