Lancashire has assets to make staycation the norm, say leaders
Lancashire has the attractions to make holidaying at home the norm, but it must achieve customer service excellence and drive up quality according to a panel of regional tourism leaders.
Experts, brought together in Blackpool for a high-level discussion on tourism in the Red Rose County, said the sector must not become complacent and allow the ‘staycation effect’, created by the economic downturn, to fizzle out.
The event, entitled Boosting the Visitor Economy – The Future of Lancashire Tourism, was hosted by Chiks Chartered Accountants and Business Advisors, which has a specialist leisure and tourism team.
It brought together some of the county’s leading leisure businesses and professional industry advisors, along with experts from the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board, Bay Tourism and Blackpool Airport.
The panel said the county could continue increasing visitor numbers if individual business owners improve customer service levels and if local authorities can work together to achieve more effective marketing.
Judith Dugdale, head of Chiks’s specialist tourism team, said: “Our latest roundtable discussion confirms the Lancashire tourism sector is in good health, but the overriding message was that we need to be doing more to make Lancashire an attractive proposition. This means business owners, local authorities and tourism bodies working together to drive up quality and improve customer service.”
Speaking at the event, Mike Wilkinson, chief executive of Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board, said: “We have a fantastic offer here in Lancashire and visitor numbers are up. From Lytham all the way to Morecambe Bay, we have a beautiful coastline and we’ve also got the rural product, especially the Forest of Bowland which has some of the most stunning countryside anywhere in the UK.
“We’ve got cities too, like Lancaster, with enormous heritage that could be capitalising more strongly on their history. There’s no doubt about the product, if we can get the marketing and the customer service right then I think we’re in a really strong position to get more people not only visiting Lancashire, but holidaying here.”
Roger Carter, chair of Bay Tourism, which promotes tourism in the Lancaster and Morecambe area, said: “We have a lot of financial opportunities to benefit from the home tourism market, but I think the biggest factor is how we deal with people once they turn up on our doorstep. For people to keep coming back, they have to have had a positive experience.”
Tim Bell, manager of the Lancaster House Hotel, Lancaster, added: “A lot of us have felt the impact of staycations, but we need to ride the wave of that and keep the momentum going and not become complacent. The one thing we’re not guaranteed in Britain is sunshine and so it’s important that customer service is absolutely at the top of the agenda.”
According to figures from Visit England released in December 2009, holiday trips in the UK were up 18 per cent and visitor spend was up 13 per cent on 2008, largely due to the recession.
Under its new tourism policy the coalition government wants to increase the percentage of the UK population holidaying at home from 36 per cent to 50 per cent.
Jane Randall, head of visitor economy at the NWDA, warned that there were still challenging times ahead: “Tourism in the Northwest has been very well supported by the public sector over the last few years, particularly through the NWDA, but now that support is no longer available there is a significant challenge facing our tourist boards, and the industry. It’s now more important than ever for local authorities, the tourist board, and the private sector to work together to realise the staycation ambition.”
Other organisations that contributed to the Chiks roundtable event were Ribby Hall Village, The Sandcastle Waterpark and Napthens Solicitors.