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


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 "" 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 etc.

  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 time.

  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 "" 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.

Marketing Activity

  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 consumer service.

  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 elements include:

    —  a dedicated "go south—go now" hotline;

    —  enhancement of the "gosouth" website;

    —  an extensive press and PR campaign;

    —  a commercial radio campaign;

    —  an extensive door-to-door leaflet campaign; and

    —  a press relations campaign.

  21.  The website is utilising the 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 open—visit 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 enquiries—the utilisation of manpower resources).

  25.  The press and PR campaign provides extensive coverage in regional press right up to Easter with:

    —  What to see and do—where to stay;

    —  Easter events;

    —  Heritage attractions;

    —  Pubs and vineyards;

    —  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 Business Service.

  Further information on the Board's recovery plan can be made available if necessary.

April 2001

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