Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


APPENDIX 22

Memorandum submitted by the Forest of Dean District Council

  Tourism in the Forest of Dean is estimated to contribute over £40 million to the economy with an estimated three million visitors per year.

  There are five key areas:

1.  Information and Communication

  1.1  A Forest of Dean Tourism Task Group has been set up to address issues pertinent to the Forest and to develop a recovery programme. The Partnership consists of representatives from tourism businesses, District Council, County Council, Tourism Association, Wye Valley AONB and Forest Enterprise.

  1.2  The tourism businesses are hungry for accurate, up-to-date information. A newsletter is being produced regularly and is attached to this report[8]. The District Council's web site is being regularly updated as is the Glosnet website (for Gloucestershire County Council). Information is recognised as a most important service provided by the District Council but it must be open, honest, accurate and treating the tourist businesses as equal and intelligent partners. A great deal of damage is done if the true situation is disguised.

2.  A new Marketing Strategy

  2.1  Originally we tried to promote a message that the Forest of Dean was "open for business". The Forest of Dean as a woodland and outdoor venue is not open for business. We are clearly not open for the same "business" as we were this time last year—or indeed two months ago.

  2.2  However, many individual businesses are open and therefore as a District we must rethink our marketing strategy for the short term. Such an analysis probably applies equally well for the county of Gloucestershire and the country.

  2.3  We are now promoting a different product to a different customer. In the short term we are not a location for wonderful woodland walks full with bluebells and daffodils. We are not a place for family cycle riders in 10,400 hectares of traffic free tracks. Rather we have unusual attraction which reflect a fascinating archaeological, industrial and historic past, beautiful drives along country lanes, through woods full of bluebells, special festivals and events, open gardens and specialised attractions.

  2.4  What we need to do in the next couple of weeks is publish special, high quality promotional material that draws attention to these attractions events and facilities as part of the Tourism Task Group Partnership. But the Council's tourism promotion budget has already been committed and additional funding will be needed for these short-term projects.

3.  Research and Training

  3.1  The Tourism Task Group are undertaking surveys to identify impact, problems and the range of solutions possible. There is also an excellent opportunity to offer training courses eg customer care, marketing and promotion computer skills to businesses, who unhappily find they have time on their hands in the next few weeks.

4.  A Local Solution

  4.1  The Forest of Dean District Council cannot stress too much the importance of finding local solutions to these matters. The impact of foot and mouth disease varies significantly from Newent, an attractive market town in the north of the district with a nearby range of excellent visitor attractions and easy coach parking, to the southern part of the district which has a reputation for off road cycling on beautiful forestry tracks, wonderful walking combined with some unusual and fascinating visitor attractions. The Council's short-term promotional activity will reflect local variations in the visitor market. Thus a regional marketing strategy which concentrates on the south west will badly under sell Dorset with no foot and mouth disease and not address the very real problems in the Forest of Dean or western Devon.

  4.2  The local solution in the Forest of Dean is able to reflect differing local circumstances so marketing strategies and consequential promotional activity must be locally produced by local partnerships. When the Forest of Dean woodland can reopen for visitors we plan to organise a grand celebration.

5.  Business Failure

  5.1  Government and Local Authorities will have to recognise that despite the best marketing strategies, promotional material and intention, there will be some small tourism businesses that will fail in the aftermath of foot and mouth disease. Simple cash flow problems, an unsympathetic Bank Manager or an inability to respond to a crisis will inevitably cause such failures. Government will have to make a decision as to whether or not it is going to give short-term cash help in situations where this can be directly related to foot and mouth disease. Again this will only be a localised problem.

Conclusions

    —  Trust the citizens of Great Britain with the whole story—they will respect you for it.

    —  Develop a refocused short-term marketing strategy and promotional material for Great Britain PLC.

    —  Ensure you are responding to the real problem through good research and use the quiet time to provide specialist training courses.

    —  Support the development of a local recovery plan delivered by existing local partnerships either in regeneration or tourism.

    —  Accept that there will be some individual businesses that will fail without a decision to support them.

    —  Ensure that clear and consistent messages are being sent out. Clarity is the key.

April 2001


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