27 Jan 2019
Chinese & International Reporting 2018/19
2018 was the year when Visit Somerset finally started to develop its international strategy in line with two major projects.
The first was based on a successful bid to the Discover England Fund (DEF) in conjunction with the SW Peninsula counties. Devon, Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, combining efforts to market the Peninsula to the American and Australian markets.
The project was successful in acquiring £300,000 of research funding to create a research proposal, which includes the testing of the Peninsula’s products in American and Australian markets, so that the associated ‘Visit’ brands can all build a more compelling proposition post March 30th 2019, when the funding stream ends. In line with the research, we will also see specific product development completed, with such product creation as photography, drone footage and video content, building Visit Somerset’s future marketing asset portfolio.
The second development for Visit Somerset has been around teaming up and officially aligning with Visit Devon in an effort to combine the counties assets, creating a more compelling offer for the Chinese & North East Asian markets, coming out of London. We know there are ‘easy access’ and transport routes into Somerset and Devon. You can be in greater Devon within 2.30 hours and Somerset within 1 hour 20 minutes, connecting into the North East of the county. The 'face value', perception is somewhat different though, both counties believe that it’s time to correct those myths. This linked with three airports, (Newquay, Exeter and Bristol), four major train stations, sub stations and an integrated bus network, the opportunities are extensive.
In November 2018, the Visit Somerset team were able to join the Destination Britain China and North East Asia conference for the first time. This trade show giving delegates attending the opportunity to network and meet with perspective Trade Operators, forging closer ties, ensuring DMC’s & Tour Operators become aware of the offers that Somerset has to provide. This was the team’s first time in China, so the investment has been significant from Visit Somerset. The investments have helped empower the county’s DMO, seeing the team come back, better resourced and experienced to engage with tour operators and DMC’s back in the UK.
There have already been some really encouraging developments that will be detailed below.
It is important to realise that we do not believe we will see any physical return on investment for three years – however, we are already seeing activity -
The Chinese businesses were really welcoming and hospitable and always responded well to positive emotional intelligence; our first mission was hugely beneficial and will pave the way for further developments, as we build on Chinese and North East Asian project work.
In Visit Somerset’s estimation emotional intelligence will play just as crucial a role as the actual product development. The Chinese are very honourable, therefore credibility, honesty and integrity, in your delivery and the way you build relationships, are just as important. This is where I believe that we can, along with our product development, make a significant difference and gain a real USP.
The success of the project will not be seen immediately, (as have stated)
For Visit Somerset moving forward, the Chinese market is going to become one of our key strategic regions to target.
Over the course of the three days, the team were able to understand more about the Chinese and North East Asian markets and were able to gain insight into what other destinations are doing in an effort to drive greater Chinese traffic to the county.
Overall, the team spoke with thirty-four good quality contacts. We were very lucky to have an interpreter and all presentation slides were translated into Mandarin.
High level feedback that came through indicated that some operators hadn’t heard of Bath, so there was an ideal opportunity to really start selling in such an iconic city, heavily endorsed by the Roman Baths.
Immediately after the event, we felt it necessary to ensure that we were utilising and working with those businesses that had displayed a really positive initial interest. This has included: China Holidays, Kuoni Tumlare and Anglo Chinese Executive Travel. The team will be going to meet with all three organisations, which represent a very important part of the overall market, over the 17th and 18th January in London.
We have independently been invited out to meet the regional director for Kuoni Tumlare in Beijing later in 2019, to strengthen ties directly.
China Holidays have already expressed an interest in developing; Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibition type themes, we will of course update you further with news when available. (MICE)
Due to Visit Somerset now being able to take part in Visit Britain projects, we have been informed that we are going to be included in the Explore GB developments in May 2019, we already have a group of eleven Japanese Operators staying at one of our supporters’ hotels, whilst visiting many key aspects of the region that they have requested. The benefits are already becoming very apparent.
Plans are being put in place for our second mission to Destination Britain China 2019, marketing the county.
I am really pleased to also announce that we are now making plans to join UK Inbound as of April 2019.
This whilst we are also investigating joining ETOA the European Tourism Association to broaden our appeal and marketing capital even further.
Below is the detail on where those visitors are going which is not just Bath. Visit Somerset have genuinely worked tirelessly over the last four years to try help international tourism see the bigger opportunities that the county provides, whilst also admiring the beauty of Bath with such organisations and members as Bath Heritage Services.
Bath - honey pot destination numbers have compared visitor numbers for the past 3 years. https://www.visitbritain.org/town-data
Interestingly Somerset climbed from 2014 to 2015 but dropped back a bit in 2016. That said, Bath is still the 14th most visited city in Britain. Bath hasn't up until recently been considered in Somerset. But clearly to all those that know Somerset's old county boundary knows differently! Once tour operators have understood this, opportunities have further grown for the county.
Other areas that have been well visited from the overall marketing campaign are:
Visit Somerset is also seeing a Hinkley effect - Chinese visitor numbers to Somerset grew hugely, but revenue declined. This is most likely due to long stay business visitors who are staying in rented accommodation rather than hotels and guest houses.
SOMERSET YOY STATISTICS
•Total visitors = 547,400 +1.20 % increase
•Total Spend = £361.01m + 122.34% increase
•China visitors = 16,622 +61.67 % increase
•China spend = £5.80m - 9.61 % decrease
UK YOY STATISTICS
•Total Visitors = 37.61 m +4.14% increase
•Total Spend = £22.42 m +2.17% increase
•China visitors = 478.497 +0.99 % increase 2016
•China spend = £767.83m - 9.87 % decrease