The head of Visit East of England issued a rallying call at the organisation’s annual conference for Suffolk and Norfolk to jointly bid to become a Local Visitor Economy Partnership.
Speakers and dignitaries at the Visit East of England Visitor Economy Conference at the John Innes Centre, Norwich Research Park, Norwich.
Dr Andy Wood OBE DL told the conference at the John Innes Centre, Norwich, that visitor numbers to the two counties were now higher than pre-Covid levels and that now was the opportunity to work collaboratively to get national recognition as an accredited LVEP.
‘The organisation of our industry is changing, and we should cooperate and be prepared to take our rightful seat at the top table,’ Mr Wood told an audience of 200 representatives from businesses, local authorities and destination organisations.
VEE chairman Andy called for a joint Suffolk-Norfolk LVEP bid at the VEE Visitor Economy Conference.
‘To every single one of you here today, I urge you, ‘Let’s do more and do it together’. We’ve come so far and achieved so much. Now just imagine what more, by working together, we could do next. I’m in no doubt, this means we go forward, and we deliver the Suffolk-Norfolk LVEP bid which will see our region thrive long into the future.’
LVEPs are part of a new England-wide structure of accredited tourism bodies, a key outcome of the 2020 DMO Review by now-VisitBritain chairman Nick de Bois. In future, only LVEPs will get support from the national tourist organisations and be able to bid into national funding opportunities. In the past six years, VEE has successfully bid for £720,000 of funds to promote Suffolk and Norfolk.
Visit East of England chair Andy Wood, VisitEngland Chair Lady Victoria Borwick and Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason-Billig.
In the last six months many major tourism destinations, including Cornwall, Yorkshire, Kent, Cumbria and the Cotswolds have been made accredited LVEPs.
Mr Wood also announced that Visit East of England, working with VisitEngland, would be recruiting consultants to engage with stakeholders on a new Destination Management Plan.
‘Their responsibility will be to create the new plan over the next few months. This means a process of probing, questioning, clarifying and conversing. We’ll want to hear from all stakeholders about where we’re at and where we hope to be. All of you have a critical role to play in our future shape and direction,’ said Mr Wood.
VisitEngland Executive Andrew Stokes speaking at the VEE Visitor Economy Conference.
The afternoon of the conference was focused on LVEPs, with VisitEngland Executive Andrew Stokes saying that in future VisitEngland would be ‘having a deeper and more strategic relationship’ with around 40 nationally-supported, sustainable and high-performing LVEPs rather than more than 150 destination management organisations (DMOs).
He highlighted the benefits being an LVEP would bring:
- A clear strategic link from the local to the national level, working with VisitBritain (VB) and VisitEngland (VE) to deliver local and national visitor economy priorities.
- LVEPs will have a direct and deeper working relationship with VE/VB and therefore directly to DCMs and government.
- VB/VE will be channelling their existing activities, such as participation in marketing campaigns, as well as providing extra support on things like staff training and developing commercial strategies, through LVEPs.
- Helping drive place-shaping agenda, creating value-added jobs, bringing in new talent and stimulating innovation.
- Strong leadership and governance is more likely to generate sustainable growth in the local visitor economy.
Mr Stokes was joined at the event by new VisitEngland Chair Lady Victoria Borwick.
Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason-Billig speaking at the VEE Visitor Economy Conference.
Norfolk County Council leader Kay Mason-Billig spoke about why the authority are investing in a bid by Visit East of England to become an LVEP.
‘At a time when we have to make careful decisions about where to invest our resources, we have chosen to increase the County Council’s investment in the visitor economy,’ she said.
‘We believe that the County Council’s strategic financial support will benefit all the tourism partners in Norfolk – our district councils, our DMOs and, most of all, our tourism businesses and those visitors who come to enjoy our beautiful county in their thousands each year. We also recognise that we are stronger together and that working collectively has been critical to our many successes in the visitor economy over recent years.’
Newcastle-Gateshead Initiative CEO Sarah Green speaking at the VEE Visitor Economy Conference.
The final speaker of the conference was Sarah Green, Chief Executive Officer of Newcastle-Gateshead Initiative, the accountable body for the £2.35m North-East LVEP pilot which includes Visit Durham and Visit Northumberland.
Ms Green said, ‘The visitor economy provides more than just economic growth – it provides jobs for our residents, underpins our cultural assets, supports regional resilience and critically it helps change perceptions of our region.’
A key criterion for the success of the pilot will be increasing inbound tourism.
VisitEngland Chair Lady Victoria Borwick with Visit Great Yarmouth Chief Executive Asa Morrison and Visit East of England Executive Director Pete Waters.
The conference highlighted Visit East of England’s work during and since the pandemic, including:
- Becoming the conduit between the national tourist bodies and government to local businesses and DMOs.
- The establishment of a DMO coalition and Visitor Economy Group of local authorities.
- A new Naturally placemaking brand, providing a ‘welcome for all’ message, including sustainable tourism, inclusivity and accessibility.
- Travel Trade activity on behalf of all the local destinations at VisitBritain’s Destination Britain North America conference in San Francisco and the UK Inbound annual conference in Belfast with more to come, activity that any single DMO couldn’t do.
- Bringing to the region filmmakers who would create the upcoming $275m Masters of the Air mini-series.
- Creating the £3.8m VENI skills initiative with West Suffolk College.