"THE TOURISM, HOSPITALITY AND LEISURE INDUSTRY HAS ALWAYS BEEN INNOVATIVE AND HAS A STRONG ENTREPRENEURIAL SPIRIT".- KATHRYN DAVIS, HEAD OF TOURISM - DESTINATION BRISTOL AND INTERIM CEO - VISIT BATH
Most of my career has been spent working within the visitor economy in some form or other; events, hotels, and venues but for the last 21 years, this has been within Destination Management Organisations (DMOs). There are forms of DMOs across the UK and the world, with all of us working slightly differently.
I fell into the world of DMOs completely by accident, after applying for the position of Marketing Executive with the then Bristol Tourism and Conference Bureau in 2000, which had been launched the previous year. With an initial role focussing on consumer marketing and PR, my curiosity and experience in working in the sector meant that I was desperate to learn more about the breath of the operation, particularly in digital which for DMOs, was very much in its infancy.
In the last 21 years, I have worked across all areas of partnerships, business events and leisure travel, locally, nationally, and internationally. And not one of those 7,665 days has ever been the same – which is probably why it remains as exciting and dynamic as ever.
However, the last 16 months have been very different. The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has left the industry devastated. At its worst, we have seen the closure of businesses, and people we know well lose their jobs or leave the industry altogether. And yet we have seen incredible resilience and innovation from across the visitor economy, as cultural venues and producers moved into online content, restaurants became takeaways and delivery services were introduced to local communities. Those that could change, did so. And these, and the many who could not deliver a virtual experience, worked tirelessly to support their communities and their own teams. This innovation and resilience has come at a cost, with many businesses taking on huge debt to enable them to live to fight another day.
The tourism, hospitality and leisure industry has always been innovative and has a strong entrepreneurial spirit. In such a competitive marketplace, businesses need a competitive edge to stand out. However, what is exciting about businesses in the visitor economy is that innovation is often driven by collaboration. There are examples of local breweries working together to create special beers, or events such as the wonderful East Bristol Beer Trail. Or local gin distilleries creating bespoke gins to suit a particular restaurant in the case of Psychopomp or the 6 o’clock Gin special editions.
There are great examples of the cultural sector coming together to deliver innovative digital campaigns. The ‘flash sale’ promoted ticket sales for specific venues and events in a 24-hour window, with venues working in partnership across their social and consumer channels to support each other and cross sell. A simple idea with a spectacular amount of coordination and willingness to collaborate.
It is this sense of innovative collaboration that sits at the heart of everything that we do. A DMO can bring together all aspects of the visitor economy whether in producing a new package or product , or to bring business together through content. Through the production of destination led marketing and activity, a cohesive approach can be delivered across consumer, trade and corporate channels that motivate longer stays and consistent messaging. This can be demonstrated in the content produced to maximise opportunities available through Bath’s starring role in Bridgerton within our ‘Inspire Me’ section of VisitBath.co.uk.
There are undoubtedly some great examples of innovation in tourism, culture and hospitality that include use of tech, not least the 5G Smart tourism project that was developed in the region. One of the world’s first 5G testbeds produced in March 2018, when the University of Bristol’s Smart Internet Lab teamed up with the Watershed and We The Curious, to produce a weekend of visitor experiences demonstrating the potential of 5G through augmented reality theatre, virtual reality dance and an audiovisual journey across the cosmos.
We are so fortunate to have incredible expertise and a willingness to work together in the region. It is this continual need to do more and do better that give us such an incredible visitor experience as we rebuild our visitor economy – worth an estimated £2.33bn to the west of England.