I had a fascinating day at the #DestinationSuffolk Suffolk Tourism Conference today. What a difference a year makes! Last year there was no mention at all of Social Media – this year a Digital Marketing Workshop was oversubscribed.
I was at the Trinity Park Conference Centre in Ipswich in my role as practice manager for regional architects Barefoot & Gilles (we design hotels including this one and this one in Suffolk). But as usual I couldn’t attend an event of such interest without live tweeting, so I took my netbook and sat at the back. Here are just a few of my favourite moments.
A fantastic keynote speech from Steve Cram MBE, stepping off the plane from the Vancouver Winter Olympics to inject enthusiasm and really useful information into the event. He began with “Whatever the negativity you hear in the next year, I’ve heard it 10 times before, and every time the Nation gets totally engaged.”
Forty to fifty thousand media professionals will be at the 2012 Olympics, from hundreds of countries, and they’ll all be looking for content to feed back to their audiences, content not just about the Olympics themselves but about the host country and what it has to offer. These journalists (and yes, many of them are on twitter) are booking their tickets for 2012 a year to 18 months in advance – in other words NOW. What are we doing to make sure they want to come and see us?
Steve Cram made the analogy with Olympic medalists. Does every athlete get a medal? No. Its a competition. Athletes who work hard and take the opportunities as they arise will win. Before, during and after the games there will be a huge group of people with time on their hands, wanting to spend it creatively in the host nation. Of course everyone in the autidorium wants them to head up the train line from Stratford and come and sample what Suffolk hospitality has to offer. An audience member asked whether we could bribe the train operators not to stop in Essex! In fact we are also competing with regions as far afield as Northumberland.
Sandie Dawe of Visit Britain gave us a picture of how the group (who market the UK internationally as a destination) are hoping to help us get the most out of the tourist potential of the Olympics. She said, “we cannot outspend our competitors, so we will outsmart them”. Corporate sponsors want to leverage their financial investment in coming to the Olympics – we can help them do that. They need to make special offers to their customers, these can be our offers.
The conference also heard from Paul Smith of Visit Manchester, who were part of the hugely successful 2002 Commonwealth Games. He reiterated Steve Cram’s point – when 2012 comes around, everyone will want a piece of the Olympics. He went on to outline just some of the ongoing benefits the 2002 games have had for Greater Manchester, from transport investment to ongoing business links with other countries, origianally created through the ‘Adopt a Nation’ programme.
A panel discussion brought more interest, including discussion of employment, volunteers, venues and welcoming techniques with Simon Clegg, now of Ipswich Town FC was formerly CEO of the British Olympic Association. Simon said that the emphasis on training venues was interesting but misplaced – many other much greater opportunities for the local community existed, including the tourism ones discussed today. What about pre-Games competitions? After the Olympics 900,000 pieces of sports equipment will be distributed for use throughout the country – what an opportunity. We also heard of a new campaign being set up to attract Olympic visitors to discover the Suffolk Churches, which in turn would guide them to the Suffolk’s iconic villages, pointing out nearest cafe or pub.
After lunch the ever enthusiastic Tourism Manager of Choose Suffolk, Alex Paul, treated us to an enthusiastic romp through the partnership’s success. The value of tourism to Suffolk’s economy rose in 2008 to £1.63bn. Last year’s ‘’Come to your senses Visit Suffolk’ campaign had a 17-fold return on investment, an incremental spend of £1.75m. Alex talked about the huge important of the internet to tourism – visitors are inspired, they evaluate, book, visit and then afterwards provide feedback and enthuse to their network. This year is going to be even better.
What do you think of Suffolk? Well you’ve got to go to Southwold and have a pint of Adnams.. and a plate of freshly caught sprats with it, can’t be beaten in Southwold just thought is making me hungry…
At the Digital Marketing Workshop, Justin Reid of @VisitBritain set out the sea change in his agency’s attitude since 2008. Then they spent most of their budget on PayPerClick advertising; now they get most of their (self selected) traffic via twitter (and their ‘Love UK’ Facebook page is just getting started – the potential audience is huge).
Even better, Justin Reid pointed out how few unsolicited marketing emails are read – because the recipients don’t want them. With social media tools, people opt in – they choose to fan your page on facebook or follow you on twitter. They choose to buy your iphone app of Great British Film Locations in the thousands (and suggest new films you forgot in the first edition!). It was fantastic to hear how such a high profile organisation like Visit Britain now ‘gets’ Social Media and is reaping the benefits.
So that’s it. The Olympics are big. Suffolk is going to benefit. Social Media is going to help it happen. What a useful day!
Image: Destination Suffolk