Memorandum submitted by the Southern Tourist
1.1 The following report describes the activities
undertaken by the Southern Tourist Board to date in support of
the tourism industry following the outbreak of foot and mouth.
These activities have been part of a co-ordinated survival and
recovery plan delivered jointly with the South East England Tourist
Board. Phase 1 of this plan covering the period from March through
Easter to the May Bank holiday has been funded by the English
Tourism Council and the South East England Regional Development
2.1 One of the first tasks undertaken by
STB in early March was to telephone tourist attractions and local
authorities to compile a computer based record indicating those
places which were opened or closed. This was used to deal with
immediate enquiries and was disseminated to the network of Tourist
Information Centres. Those TICs without computer technology were
sent a hard copy of the current opening status of known attractions
and facilities throughout the region.
2.2 An attractions Open Status Report has
continued to be maintained with additional data being gathered
through a postal survey and regular contacts with trade associations.
In late March the Board was advised that the British Tourist Authority
would be sending out an information request form to all known
attractions requesting opening details. Since then STB has generally
been reliant upon the BTA Open Britain site. The BTA website has
subsequently been the main source of reference for our foot and
mouth hotline service supplemented by any additional information
from local sources.
3. FOOT AND
3.1 On 23 March, STB with SEETB established
a foot and mouth hotline for the general public relying principally
on the Open Britain Site, feeding our own joint "Go South"
website. Specially trained staff man the hotline from 10 am to
8 pm from Monday to Saturday and from 10 am to 5 pm on Sundays.
Up until 18 April around 120 enquiries had been handled by STB
or routed through to SEETB. As might be expected, the most common
questions related to whether a particular attraction is open or
closed and whether it was possible to walk in the countryside.
4. LIAISON WITH
4.1 On 13 March STB organised a meeting
for the region's local authority Tourist Officers. This led to
a commitment to report on a weekly basis to the STB on the impact
foot and mouth was having on their area, any other industry feedback,
planned local authority support etc. Responses were collated by
STB and combined with other data to create the first "Regional
Status Report" circulated to ETC, BTA, GOSE, SEEDA and Tourist
Officers on 19 April. Further reports have been issued weekly
(five by 18 April).
4.2 Led by STB, the Tourism Officers have
met on two further occasions (2 April and 10 April) to discuss/agree
plans for recovery and this has helped to ensure a co-ordinated
regional response to the crisis.
4.3 In addition, STB's officers have attended
a wide variety of local authority and trade association meetings
and seminars to gather intelligence and raise awareness about
the national and regional Tourist Board led marketing, research,
information and support activities.
4.4 The first meeting of the SEEDA Rapid
Response Team took place on 21 March. STB's Managing Director
attended with the STB/SEETB Secondee at the Agency. Both regional
tourist boards were invited to present a Recovery Plan to the
Team at its meeting on 4 April.
4.5 In terms of communication with businesses,
STB has issued three Foot and Mouth Bulletins to date and a further
Bulletin is scheduled for 1 May. These have been a mixture of
information about ETC and STB activities and advice on surviving
the crisis. The first Bulletin issued on 21 March also contained
a short questionnaire probing the impact on bookings and enquiries.
4.6 The next Bulletin to be issued during
the week beginning 23 April will be accompanied by a Foot and
Mouth Survival Kit which STB/SEETB has collated with help from
Business Links and local legal firms.
5. PRESS AND
5.1 From the outset of the foot and mouth
crisis, STB has been regarded as the main source of information
for the media on the impact of the disease on the region's tourism
and on responses to it. Getting a responsible message to the public
whilst stimulating additional visits to suffering businesses in
the countryside has been part of this.
5.2 Various press releases were issued by
STB from late March onwards prompting a large media response.
A schedule of media contacts, including television and radio interviews,
6.1 Following ETCs announcement that an
initial £3 million has been made available through the DCMS
for marketing activity to address the affects of foot and mouth
on tourism, STB and SEETB joined forces to prepare a Recovery
and Marketing Plan. To assist, given the urgency, external marketing
and PR expertise was enlisted. The recovery plan was produced
entirely during the week commencing 26 March for submission to
the ETC and presentation a week later to SEEDA's Rapid Response
Team (4 April).
6.2 By the end of March/first week in April
a detailed short-term marketing and information strategy for tourism
recovery for the period before Easter through to the May Bank
Holiday had been approved and funding agreed. Key elements include:
6.2.1 The dedicated "Go SouthGo
As mentioned above, this is operating seven
days a week. It is fronted by STB with a switching mechanism to
SEETB where calls relate to their area.
6.2.2 An enhanced "Go South" website.
The www.gosouth.co.uk website utilises the www.open.visitbritain.com
site which contains the up-to-date information on places to visit
and events. Features of the "Go South" website include
a section dedicated to news items and special offers from operators
updated on a daily basis. There is also news from destinations,
attractions, accommodation establishments and supporting businesses.
All contributions receive links to their own websites.
Since the start of April the site has received
4,000 "hits". We anticipate the use of the site will
increase significantly as a result of radio and newspaper campaigns
promoting the site as a source of up-to-date information and special
6.2.3 An extensive press and PR campaign.
Ylva French Communications have been retained
to oversee and implement the press and PR campaign in collaboration
with the marketing teams of STB and SEETB. The campaign's purpose
has been to encourage day trips by local people and short breaks
by those living further afield by generating national local newspaper
coverage within the relevant catchment areas. Specific activity
3 AprilAnnouncement of campaign.
3 AprilEaster events in the region.
10-11 AprilShort breaks focusing on cathedral
10 AprilThames and Chilterns Country
In preparationRelease for feature editors
with a garden theme.
"Good news" snippets and anecdotes
for news pages on nationals and regionals.
Regional short articles on what to do out doors.
Feature for Mature Times on weekend breaks.
Feature for Primary Times based on family itineraries.
6.2.4 A commercial radio campaign.
A radio campaign is underway covering the STB/SEETB
region and London. It features the unmistakable voice of Joanna
Lumley and refers listeners to the "Go South" website
and telephone hotline. Six hundred, 30-second spots have been
booked between the start of April and Easter. It will continue
to the May Bank Holidays concentrating coverage in the outer and
inner London catchment areas.
6.2.5 An extensive door-to-door leaflet
A door-to-door leaflet campaign is supporting
the radio campaign message and will cover around five million
households in the South and South East.
7. OTHER ACTIVITIES
7.1 In addition to the above, STB has also
been pressing Business Links to provide specialist free advice
to tourism businesses affected by foot and mouth. Discussions
are still taking place and SEEDA have requested further funding
from the DETR to fund this.
7.2 We are also collaborating with Business
Links on the setting up of industry workshops/seminars on foot
and mouth. The purpose will be to disseminate advice on dealing
with the financial, staffing and legal difficulties which foot
and mouth has caused. The first of these will be run in early
8. OTHER CONSIDERATIONS
8.1 In terms of measures which Government
should be instigating or encouraging, STB would like to see the
8.1.1 Serious medium and longer term marketing/support
funding to re-launch rural tourism during and after the crisis.
Funding is needed to re-build confidence in overseas and domestic
markets to speed recovery and ensure that 2002 is a year for re-building
lost business. Marketing funding of £3.8 million through
the English Tourism Council to rescue Easter and the May Bank
Holidays has been extremely welcome. £230,000 of this has
been allocated to the Southern and South East England Tourist
Board Recovery Plans. However, by comparison, the Scottish Executive
response was a £13.5 million package.
8.1.2 Funding to directly subsidise participation
into next season's marketing publications/campaigns. There is
a real danger that small businesses starved of cash by the current
crisis will be forced to cut marketing budgets for 2002.
8.1.3 Assistance via the Banks with interest
free or reduced interest loans or a suspension of capital repayments.
The recently announced extension of the Small Firms Loan Guarantee
Scheme is a step in the right direction, but a loan at an interest
rate of 8.7 per cent is still a major financial commitment. Small
businesses close to financial collapse are unlikely to want to
take on more debt so it remains to be seen how many make use of
the Scheme. The immediate requirement is interest free loans to
save businesses from bankruptcy with a flexible payback geared
to an ability to afford.
8.1.4 A business support network involving
both the Regional Tourist Boards and Business Links. This needs
to provide free advice/counselling and practical support to tourism
businesses during the crisis. Currently, with MAFF funding, the
farming industry benefit from six free advisory sessions from
Business Link Advisors as well as compensation for lost income.
In the absence of direct compensation, we believe that tourism
businesses should at least be eligible for an equivalent package
of free advice/support. Given the low penetration of Business
Link into the tourism sector and the expertise/contacts which
rests with Regional Tourist Boards, we believe that there is a
strong case for close collaboration in the delivery of this service.
To date, the response from each Business Link has been different
so that no standard package is available to be promoted.
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