The Visit Herefordshire Tourism Forum, which took place at Hereford Cathedral on Wednesday 8th September, has been hailed a great success. Taking place in glorious sunshine, the event was well attended by around 200 people representing all sectors of the Herefordshire visitor economy including experts in tourism from outside the county such as the founding editor of Wanderlust travel magazine and Visit England.
After a welcome coffee in the Lady Arbour Garden the Cathedral Nave played host to a series of tourism presentations. Starting with the main addresses from Mandy Thorn, Chair of the Marches LEP who highlighted the successes of the Herefordshire tourism economy’s collaboration, overcoming recent challenges and making effective use of the LEP’s tourism recovery funds.
“Making funding* available to support the proposal developed by Herefordshire Business Board and Herefordshire Council in the darkest hour for Herefordshire’s tourism industry, when flooding and Covid hit the county, was hugely important and we couldn’t be more delighted with the way this money has been put to use. The campaign has re-energised tourism and it shows the benefits of what can be achieved when partners come together for the common good.”
Next up, Jo Hilditch, Chair of the Tourism Steering Group, presented the main results and successes of the LEP funded tourism campaign over the last 12 months including new branding, the launch of the new Visit Herefordshire website with almost 500 businesses already signed up and an advertising campaign which includes a new TV advert. All these activities working effectively to attract the target audiences and visually harness the county’s tourism DNA.
She then proceeded to outline the high levels of engagement with the new website attracting over 100k unique users since its launch in March. Amongst other results outlined was a value of over £1million worth of press coverage generated from the PR campaign alone with the county hosting 30 high profile press and digital influencers over the year campaign period including most of the top national newspaper titles.
“We were delighted to welcome so many industry colleagues involved in promoting Herefordshire to the Cathedral today. We look forward to building on the busy summer season as we attract visitors for autumn and into the winter and Christmas season. As we market the destination externally, we also encourage stakeholders within the county to support the next phase of the tourism journey by finding out more about the Hereford BID at www.herefordshirecountybid.co.uk,” Hilditch continued.
Joe Evans, Chairman of the Herefordshire County BID then outlined the process of the Destination BID and called for support from the visitor economy,
“The Destination BID represents a fantastic opportunity for all those involved in the visitor economy, including independent retailers, to come together and deliver an exciting programme of improvements centred around communication, collaboration and connectivity. It is not only the natural way of continuing the work of the Visitor Economy Group to inspire people to holiday here as, but also has broader ambitions and is a way of attracting new talent and investment for the long term,” explained Evans.
“Smaller businesses, and those already in the Hereford City BID will be exempt from the levy, though the BID working groups will be open to all. The business plan outline will be ready for the launch of the ballot with voting taking place in November and a result in early December,” he added.
From outside the county the forum welcomed Lyn Hughes, founding editor of travel magazine Wanderlust as well as Robin Tjolle from Visit England’s Discover England Fund (DEF).
Lyn presented an insight into the travel landscape sharing her knowledge:
“Media are now taking the UK seriously as a proper travel destination, not just one for short breaks. It is the wide opinion amongst UK travel operators I have spoken to that the staycation travel boom is here to stay. I believe the future for UK tourism, and for Herefordshire as a hidden gem, is very bright.”
Robin Tjolle from Visit England took to the podium to reinforce Lyn’s sentiments and congratulated Visit Herefordshire and partners on the recent campaign activity, “We are looking forward to working with Visit Herefordshire as the voice of the county, supporting where we can with training and giving businesses the tools to get them ready for the return of the international market.”
The final speaker was Ellie Chowns, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Herefordshire Council who said,
“Quality of life is core to Herefordshire’s DNA and this focus chimes with a shift in public mood. Zero carbon, nature rich Herefordshire is the focus going forward. We are confident that this boom in staycations won’t be a flash in the pan so let’s all work together as a visitor economy community so that we can truly flourish.”
“The council has been very pleased to be part of the Steering Group in helping to secure and deliver the LEP funding along with the Business Board. We are very grateful for the time, drive and enthusiasm of the businesses that made the first phase of the campaign a real success. I am very pleased that the council has been able to commit a further £350,000 of Covid Recovery funding to continue this great work,” added Chowns.
Thanks to the event’s master of ceremonies, Julian Vaughan from the Green Dragon Hotel who summed up the day by saying,
“We can all feel very proud that Herefordshire is back on the map and we’re attracting people to spend their money in our county. The new brand gives us all this platform and let’s look forward to continued collaboration.”
After the presentations delegates enjoyed lunch in the Cathedral Cloisters, dining on Herefordshire beef and local apple juice while networking and making the most of the exhibition featuring all the tourism information centres of the market towns as well as Hereford City, in the courtyard gardens.
The afternoon’s interactive workshops covering social media, media relations, website and sustainability were also well received and attended.