Posted by: Carlos | August 24, 2010

Dont’ blame the weather!

In a recent Wales Online article, chairman of the Wales Tourism Alliance, Chris Osborne, who runs the Fourcroft Hotel in Tenby, said business this year has been worse than at any time in his 18 years in the trade – but he doesn’t blame the weather!

Quite right too. With an 80-88% repeat visit rate to Wales over a rolling five year reference period, most of our visitors are quite familiar with Wales’ changeable weather. They come prepared and know, or should know, of things to do and where to go whatever the weather.

No, what’s at fault here and has been for years is plain and simple: marketing.

Property-owners that have got it right enjoy higher than average room occupancy at rates they don’t need to discount to attract business. They achieve this year in, year out without missing a beat; but they are in the minority.

Where most tourism businesses in Wales have fallen down flat is in using new media to drive home bed bookings. Instead, they have relied too heavily on Visit Wales and the Wales Tourist Board who, after ten years of promises and as many millions of pounds of public sector expenditure, finally admit sotto voce they got it wrong.

In the meantime they used the Visit Wales brand to compete with commercial organisations for tourism businesses’ marketing spend, delivering little in return and stifling private sector innovation.

To put it another way, can you imagine the outcry from tourism businesses if Government started running their own hotels down the street from other hotels, using their marketing muscle to secure bookings, putting the other hotels out of business and giving their guests a poor experience into the bargain. Think about it.

But not to be daunted, Visit Wales is at it again, this time with a £17.4m Digital Tourism Business project likely to create even more marketing mayhem over the next three years.

Over this period, they intend to scoop up £3.7m of investment from private sector businesses who, from past experience, would be far better advised to spend their marketing budget more wisely despite new promises. When will the politicians ever learn?

This time round, however, the private sector is prepared, pledging to develop a multi-agency, multi-platform, networked solution for Wales to drastically improve new media marketing for Wales and avoid being steam-rollered by yet another Government initiative.

In the words of Welsh Icons website founder, Dom Stocqueler: “Every time I hear of another Assembly web initiative I die a little”.

Terry Jackson
Tourism Wales UK

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