National tourism chiefs and experts praise Wye Valley & Forest of Dean Tourism for “investing in the next generation” and reiterate it “is one of the top Destination Management Organisations in the UK”.
Speaking at the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean’s fourth annual Tourism Forum, sponsored by Glide Media, which was attended by 120 tourism businesses from Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire and Herefordshire, Mark Harper MP said that “the most important resource apart from the landscape is the people”, before going on to praise Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism (WVFDT) embracing a shared apprenticeship initiative. He said, “I’d like to see more of these initiatives and I will be seeing how the Government can support this more going forward”. He also reported on progress to improve connectivity and faster broadband in the Forest of Dean.
He was joined by Sharon Orrell, at her last public speaking engagement as Head of Research and Insight at VisitEngland, who outlined the current position of tourism, trends and what to look out for in the future. One increasing trend is for visitors, especially those from overseas wanting to “experience England Life”, by meeting locals, doing the things locals do such as cricket on a village green, and eating and drinking what the locals do, like fish and chips, and pies.
Kurt Jansen, the Tourism Alliance Policy Director talked about issues tourism businesses are facing now and in the future. While Brexit is seen as a very real challenge with a lot of “unknowns” to deal with, amongst the concerns there are potential opportunities for clarifying legislation and improving regulations within the industry.
The Head of Rural Development Programme for England, Andy Tordoff, spoke strongly of the importance in promoting tourism to make “good places great and grow”. He also suggested that “Destination Management Organisations” (DMOs) such as Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism are moving towards becoming “Destination Marketing Organisations”, promoting the region’s people and places more to create a better sense of destination on arrival.
Gerwyn Evans, Head of Policy and Programmes at VisitWales said that Tourism is a “highly competitive sector” and other destinations around the UK were “investing in their products to improve their tourism offer”. He said that VisitWales were keen to promote and assist funding “quality tourism products” and shared the current Year of the Sea theme for 2018. He said that 80% of Wales’ tourism business is from England and they are focusing on London and the South East to promote Wales.
Speaking last, David Owen, Chief Executive of GFirst LEP, said that “investment in Gloucestershire is giving better access to business in the Forest of Dean than ever before”. He also asked the WVFDT Destination Management Apprentice, Amy Ruck, to join him on stage and tell the Forum what her apprenticeship meant to her. She said that it was “a fantastic initiative” and she would encourage young people and businesses to consider ways to get young people more involved in the tourism industry. David Owen concluded by praising the WVFDT apprenticeship scheme and encouraged similar initiatives to get young people to stay and work in Gloucestershire.
Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism’s Executive Director, Maureen McAllister reviewed the last twelve months, highlighting that the Tourism Association now had dedicated full time staff, was successfully recruiting additional members, had launched new products and provided training initiatives for 78 businesses in 2017, while continuing to promote the region in the UK and internationally through press coverage and digital marketing.
After the speakers an Expert Panel was convened with Patricia Yates, VisitBritain’s Director of Strategy and Communications, Andy Woodward Director of Tourism for Quality in Tourism, David Owen, Gerywn Evans, Helen O’Kane Co-Chair WVFDT and Gill Hands Director WVFDT, taking questions from the floor on subjects such as investment in Glamping, mobile phone signal coverage, and investment in infrastructure. The Panel concluding their session saying WVFDT should “continue to really push the destination with lots of stories from the members and surrounding areas to pique the interest of potential visitors”.
Prior to the Forum research from VisitBritain revealed how 2017 data showed that holidays were up by 5% and that since 2009 there had been 18% growth in the staycation market. 2017 was a record year for short breaks, where there has been a major growth.
Maureen McAllister said: “Tourism is a vital contributor to the regional economy with nearly 8,000 jobs that account for nearly 10% of the workforce. Tourism is the fifth biggest industry in the UK and a vital engine for Britain’s prosperity. We want to encourage more young people to consider a career in tourism, and will be working with schools as well as promoting our Destination Management Apprenticeship scheme”
The Forum took place at the Royal Forest of Dean College near Coleford. David Holland of Glide Media who sponsored the Forum said: As one of the region’s fastest growing distribution specialists Glide Media has been delivering class-leading services out of its Cheltenham HQ for over fifteen years including comprehensive coverage of the Forest, Wye Valley area and beyond. Working closely with Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism since 2008 we are delighted to sponsor the 2018 Wye Valley and Forest of Dean Tourism Forum.
Key statistics for the Wye Valley and Forest of Dean
- Total staying and day trips 7,038,900
- Total visitor related spend £368,188,000
- Total estimated actual employment 7,786 (5,597 full time employees)
- Tourism accounts for 8% of all employment
- Every pound spent on marketing returns £43.55 spent by tourists
The fourth annual Tourism Forum was held on Friday 9 March 2017 at Gloucestershire College, Forest of Dean Campus, Berry Hill, near Coleford.
Download the presentations.