Coastal tourism - working together
Five and a half hours on three trains and two tube connections for an overnight trip to Skegness and East Lincolnshire in February might not be everyone's idea of a great work trip - but my recent visit was highly valuable and here's why....
The National Coastal Tourism Academy has been working extensively with the tourism industry in Bournemouth since last summer (2013). As a Coastal Communities Funded project we are tasked with accelerating growth in the tourism industry through improving the visitor experience, tackling skills issues and bridging gaps in knowledge to deliver solutions to problems faced by the tourism industry in seaside resorts.
In the last few months in particular, we've begun to reach a point where some of our early projects have started to make a real difference. The 1000th Ambassador in our on-line Bournemouth Ambassador training module is a particularly fantastic achievement - backed by research that confirms its value to the industry. As a result, we are attracting attention amongst other coastal destinations.
Key to the NCTA's remit is critical evaluation of the projects we complete, what works and why, so that other destinations can learn from best practice.
I'm often asked why the Academy was started in Bournemouth, since it’s one of the country's leading and most successful year round resorts. The answer is that it presents the opportunity to learn from best practice and understand how to replicate its success elsewhere.
The next question is usually, "If Bournemouth is so different, what can another coastal destination really learn from the work, aren't you just broadening the gap?"
The answer is "no" and this is even more apparent after my visit to Skegness. The reality is that many of our coastal towns and resorts are facing the same issues, while some may be more prevalent or important, the underlying issues are much the same, and there's a huge amount that can be learned from sharing best practice and working together.
Skegness and Bournemouth are not competing destinations, they have very different target markets and catchment areas, but they are two towns where tourism is worth nearly £500m each, facing similar issues in similar environments and where tourism is vital to the economy.
I learned a lot about the great work that is happening in East Lincolnshire that can be applied to Bournemouth as well updating them on the work of the Academy - and if I have achieved nothing more I can safely say I would like to return to the stunning landscape of East Lincolnshire that gave me a real sense of space and time to reflect - equally I expect to see a few familiar faces in Bournemouth in the future.
The tourism network in East Lincolnshire has been working hard to raise skill levels among its resident workforce, and sees great value in the work that the NCTA is doing to bridge gaps in research and grow the visitor economy both in Bournemouth and for all coastal destinations.
For further information on the work of the Academy, please contact Samantha Richardson.
By Samantha Richardson