Unexplored England is a marketing initiative that began in June 2020 as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the unprecedented impact on our tourism and hospitality sector. It is the first time that every destination organisation and every local authority in Norfolk and Suffolk have worked together on a tourism promotion.
As well as Visit East of England, the partners are:
The Suffolk Coast / All About Ipswich / Discover Newmarket / Bury St Edmunds and Beyond / Visit West Norfolk / Visit North Norfolk and Where To Go In North Norfolk / Visit Norwich / Gt Yarmouth Tourism and Business Improvement Area / Visit The Broads / Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions / Visit Suffolk / Visit Norfolk
Finance for the initiative comes from these local authorities: Norfolk County Council, East Suffolk Council, West Suffolk Council, Ipswich Borough Council, Babergh Mid Suffolk Council, King’s Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council, Gt Yarmouth Borough Council, Norwich City Council, Broadland District Council, South Norfolk District Council, Breckland District Council, North Norfolk District Council, Broads Authority.
Covid-19 has had a hugely detrimental impact on the tourism sector. VisitBritain anticipated a 48% decline in domestic tourism spend in 2020, from £75.9bn to £32.2bn. If that is replicated in Suffolk and Norfolk it would mean a drop from £5.4bn to £2.8bn.
Working together we developed a Tourism Recovery Plan. Supporting that required an initiative to kickstart the industry in the East of England, help return visitors and reassure people that we are as safe a destination as we can be.
In a post-pandemic world, with domestic tourism and hospitality being a potential key driver of the economy, there will be a clamour to attract visitors, but any local destination marketing will be swamped by a tsunami of promotion from better-funded regions such as Yorkshire, The Lakes, Wales and Scotland.
The South-West (Cornwall, Dorset, Devon) already has competitive advantage – a recent VisitBritain Consumer Confidence Survey suggests that of people thinking of holidaying or taking a break in one of 10 regions from June-Sept and October onwards, the South-West is overwhelmingly top in both categories. The East of England is third from bottom and bottom.
We have a fantastic tourism offering. It is the largest sector and biggest employer in the two counties, meaning it is vital to a vibrant economy and our wellbeing. But we are not top of mind with potential visitors.
VisitBritain suggests that the East of England is ‘Unexplored England’, an appropriate title post-lockdown that will resonate with people looking for the undiscovered and off-the-beaten-track, avoiding honeypots where lots of people will congregate. ‘Unexplored’ can be a subconscious synonym for ‘safe’. The region is an ideal destination for well-being, eco-friendly, healthy, outdoor and activity breaks.
Between the two culturally rich and vibrant counties there are 9,172 km², comprising AONBs, nature reserves, a National Park, country estates and parks, around 2000 miles of walking and cycle paths and trails, quaint market towns and chocolate box villages – more than enough ‘safe’ space to go around.
The campaign can be tailored to exploit our fresh air experiences and outdoor activities, promoting different elements such as Unexplored… trails, market towns, beaches, waterways, nature, market towns, tastes etc
Spreading the content and themes ensure that all destinations are featured evenly.
- Reassure residents about the crisis response through PR and business e-shots.
- Reassure visitors through digital activity, including social media, advertising and e-comms.
- Have the region recognized as a year-round destination for experiential travel.
- Encourage overnight stays and increased spend.
- Have VisitBritain amplify the East of England through their activity.
- Deliver content and collateral that can be re-used and redistributed.
- Ensure all destinations of Suffolk and Norfolk are promoted evenly and equitably.
- Stage 1: Friends and Family, Adventurous Urbanites.
- Stage 2: Extend holiday season through Outdoor Uplift/Rural Resurgence – Free & Easy Mini-breakers (FEMBs) who can vacation and take short breaks when they want. Two/three-hour travel time.
- Stage 3: Pre-book 2021- target the 59% of people who book their main holiday during the Winter.
For visitors, target areas with high population (who want fresh air and outdoor activities) and easy drive to the region (London, Midlands, Nottingham etc).
Stage 1 launched in July 2020, supported by a £350,000 award from the Cabinet Office’s Enjoy Summer Safely fund. Our award was the largest in the country, highlighting the benefit of working together.
The campaign was to reassure residents and make visitors feel confident and well-informed about travelling responsibly, in line with Government advice.
The campaign highlighted the VisitEngland messaging ‘Know Before You Go’ and supported the industry standard ‘We’re Good To Go’.
The Autumn introduction of tiers prompted the cancellation of Stage 2, although a ‘Days out on your doorstep’ message was promoted.
Stage 3 launched on Boxing Day with a message for people to stay safe in the lockdown and not travel, but to plan and book for Summer 2021 onwards.