Memorandum submitted by the South East
England Tourist Board
Liaison with the Tourist Information Centre network
1. Following the immediate outbreak in the
north east which coincided with the school half term in South
East England, only one or two animal attractions had immediately
closed but by Monday 5 March, as reported in the first status
report to the English Tourism Council, the majority of animal
and rural attractions were then closed. As soon as this situation
arose, the Board's information staff telephoned attractions during
the week commencing 27 February and compiled a list which was
transferred to an Excel spreadsheet. This was then disseminated
to all the Tourist Information Centres. Only two-thirds of the
regional TIC network have electronic communication, therefore
the remaining TICs were sent a hard copy of the current opening
state of all known attractions throughout the region.
2. Until the week commencing 3 April, SEETB
had used its own consumer website "southeastengland.co.uk"
for providing information on visitor attractions along with a
factual notice on guidance.
3. An Attractions Open Status Report has
continued to be maintained and information gathered from Tourist
Information Centres has supplemented this information. Of all
the private sector consortia, Sussex Top Attractions has been
most effective in forwarding information on not only their members
but on other attractions within both East and West Sussex to the
Board and elsewhere. They have also disseminated any information
they have gained from the Board's offices regarding advice, publicity
on action and any general specific legal point.
4. Regular liaison with visitor attractions
continued from the Board's offices until week commencing 26 March
when the Board was advised that the British Tourist Authority
would be sending out an information request form to all known
attractions requesting opening details. Subsequent to this SEETB
has generally been reliant upon the BTA Open Britain site. The
BTA website has subsequently been the main source of reference
for our own public information service supplemented by any additional
information forwarded by the industry direct or by local authorities.
Liaison with the industry and local authorities
5. At the beginning of week commencing 12
March, SEETB initiated a region-wide information collection exercise
with both tourism associations and local authority tourism officers
to seek current information on the impact of the foot and mouth
outbreak. Some tourism associations have been especially co-operative
and this information has been fed back through the network to
ETC, the DCMS, Government Office for the South East and SEEDA
6. The response from local authorities has
been very varied in quality and quantity. Various meetings which
have taken place have been more effective as a means of communication.
7. SEETB officers have attended a variety
of local sub-regional tourism association meetings which is normal
practice but has served an extra significance during this exceptional
8. A meeting was called by East Sussex County
Council Director of Transport and the Environment on
4 April for all interested organisations at which
the Board participated. A meeting called by Kent County Council
Chief Executive on 10 April was extended to GOSE and SEEDA representatives,
the Small Business Service, CBI and others.
9. The first meeting of the regional SEEDA
Rapid Response Team took place on 21 March. SEETB was represented
by its secondee at the Agency who reported back to the Board,
as did the Managing Director of the Southern Tourist Board. Both
regional tourist boards were invited to present a Recovery Plan
to the team at it's meeting on 4 April.
Press and media
10. SEETB is increasingly regarded as the
main source of factual information on the impact of the disease
as well as the contact for accurate information on which visitor
attractions are open and closed.
11. Media interest accelerated on 14 March
which was the date of the Board's first press release entitled
"Rural Task Force Welcomed". Whilst there was a general
understanding that the disease was having an impact on the industry
there was still the general impression until that week that the
region was relatively unaffected because of the national media
concentration on the north west and south west.
12. The release opened with the sentence
"The current foot and mouth crisis is having a devastating
effect on the region's rural tourism industry and could have a
more lasting impact on the number of overseas visitors".
Then "Many of our most important heritage attractions and
gardens are in rural settings. They are not closed because visitors
would not come in contact with agricultural livestock, but their
attendances are affected. More seriously, most animal attractions
have been forced to close entirely. Over 50 such places are not
only losing gate receipts and retail sales, but also income from
other ancillary activities, such as meetings business". The
release continued to state that a conservative estimate of the
present cost to the industry is about £5 million but that
it is inconceivable to think what the impact will be on those
businesses should the crisis continue.
13. The release prompted television interviews
with Meridian television and appearance on BBC News Night which
came from Leeds Castle. The press and media enquiries have continued
to flow since that time. The Board has been host to a French TV
crew and has generally supplied the media with information over
the last five weeks.
14. The Board had already prepared a major
gardens campaign at the beginning of the year entitled "Favourite
Gardens and Garden Stays in South East England" for distribution
to the American and near European BTA offices from February, working
in partnership with P&O Stena Line and Continental Airlines
and within the general context of BTA's International Gardens
campaign. The launch to the trade and domestic press was always
intended to coincide with the British Travel Trade Fair at the
NEC on 21-22 March. SEETB used this opportunity through its invitation
press release to emphasise that most (but not all at that time)
of the gardens were open.
15. The latest press release on 29 March
headed "Open for Business as Usual" stated "As
the Easter school holidays approach and many of the gardens are
beginning to look their best, most of the area's attractions are
extremely keen that the region's residents should re-discover
what is on their doorstep".
16. SEETB has been acting as a repository
for information from every source over the past four weeks. Official
guidance from the Rural Task Force and others has been passed
on to the industry. Accommodation and attractions have been providing
details on business trends and opening times. The Board's activity
steps up a gear this week when it will be re-launching the promotional
website "gosouth.co.uk" as a definitive reference to
tourist information over the entire South East England and Southern
Tourist Board areas.
17. The publication of two news bulletins
on 29 March and 11 April incorporating the latest information
on Government help for businesses, the Development Agency website,
guidance on opening for business during the outbreak of foot and
mouth and cancellation information.
18. Prior to 23 March the Board's entire
emphasis was on press and PR plus the consumer website but following
the English Tourism Council's announcement that an initial £3
million had been made available to itself and regional tourist
boards, the marketing teams of both the Southern and South East
England Tourist Boards got together to produce a Recovery and
Marketing Plan. As the Board's officers are already very much
committed they brought in both external marketing and PR expertise
to help in the preparation of the Recovery Plan which was produced
entirely during week commencing 26 March for submission to the
ETC and presentation in the subsequent week to SEEDA. It was decided
that the two boards should work together on this occasion as recognition
of the need to work strategically with SEEDA to seek their additional
financial support and the two boards already share a consumer
website produced by SEETB for specific campaigns being run across
the two regions. It was immediately identified that this website
could provide the easiest route to a proactive promotional information
19. At the end of the month a detailed marketing
and promotional strategy for tourism recovery had been produced
for approval by the English Tourism Council.
20. The strategy for the short-term contains
a marketing/PR campaign to encourage visitors to the area for
the period before Easter through to the May Bank Holiday. Key
a dedicated "go southgo
enhancement of the "gosouth"
an extensive press and PR campaign;
a commercial radio campaign;
an extensive door-to-door leaflet
a press relations campaign.
21. The www.gosouth.co.uk website is utilising
the www.open.visitbritain.com site which has all the up-to-date
information on all places to visit and events. The industry is
updating one national clearing house with information it required
(updated on-line twice daily). That also features a newsroom which
will feature up to the minute news from RTB member destinations,
attractions, accommodation and supporting businesses. All contributors
receive links to their own websites. There is also a special offers
board which will allow all tourism businesses to post offers throughout
the day encouraging bookings and visits.
22. All contributors will directly access
the newsroom and special offers board via a password protected
website. Mid and long-term objectives include on-going development
of the website and capture of data and e-mail addresses for a
future monthly mailing.
23. The "go south, go now" radio
campaign has been fronted by Joanna Lumley, the key message is
"So much of the region is openvisit it now".
The first phase commenced on 5 April and ran through to the eighteenth
with a total of over 600 30-second spots with a potential audience
reach of five million.
24. The "go south, go now" hotline
has been operated for seven days a week (SEETB and other regional
tourist board staff are already manning the telephones to respond
to the national hotline enquiriesthe utilisation of manpower
25. The press and PR campaign provides extensive
coverage in regional press right up to Easter with:
What to see and dowhere to
Family attractions; and
Packages (spring breaks).
26. The door-to-door leaflet campaign is
supporting the radio campaign message, "go south, go now",
to an estimated five million households.
27. The first phase campaign was supported
by funding from SEEDA of £170,000. The Development Agency
is also supporting a Kent near European campaign with £10,000
which is accessed through the Board.
28. Phase I also includes market research
and monitoring in collaboration on support services with the Small
Further information on the Board's recovery
plan can be made available if necessary.