Continuing to grow our visitor economy and deliver solutions for our members
Paul Jones, managing director of Destination Coventry, discusses plans for the visitor economy in Coventry, the work of the Coventry and Warwickshire Convention Bureau, and how Destination Coventry continues to grow.
We launched Destination Coventry over 14 months ago and we have taken great strides during that time in supporting the leisure and business tourism sectors in Coventry and Warwickshire.
The hosting of our first Annual Tourism Conference in September remains one of the highlights and exemplifies the work we are doing to grow and support our visitor economy in the region.
Prior to the conference, we ensured that we engaged with businesses across the leisure, hospitality and tourism sectors, so that the topics covered and guidance provided best matched the needs of the industry.
The key areas identified were sustainability and recruitment/skills, which we delivered specific keynotes and panel sessions for. The indications from the conference were that many businesses needed additional support in the months ahead.
We listened and learned from conference, and are now continuing to deliver in those areas.
Recruitment and skills
As a follow-up to our recruitment and skills toolkit, we partnered with the Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Coventry City Council to deliver a skills summit in December, a direct product of the learnings at our Annual Tourism Conference.
The event brought together a panel of experts from across the region, including UK Hospitality’s Skills Director, Sandra Kelly.
Collaboration has always been at the heart of everything we do at Destination Coventry and that was definitely the feeling in the room that day.
We received great feedback from UK Hospitality, who were very impressed with the levels of collaboration in our city and the wider region, and there is a potentially exciting project in the works with them moving forward.
Our work delivering business support packages continues to be something we look to expand, and we have successfully seen pots of grant funding ringfenced for hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses.
This is an area of immense pride for all of us at Destination Coventry, with more than 60 businesses supported with around £300,000 in grants. This work with the Chamber of Commerce and City Council is set to continue.
We will continue to campaign for packages of support for businesses in our sector, delivering on our promise of providing a specialist sector brokerage service where they can access funding, help and advice.
We’re a destination serious about sustainability, and following on from the keynote and panel session at our tourism conference, we have made great progress to continue on our sustainability journey.
Guy Bigwood, CEO of GDS Movement, headed up the sustainability panel at our conference and now we are working with his organisation to better approach sustainable tourism practice.
We are working to create a collaborative partnership with Shakespeare’s England and West Midlands Growth Company.
Discussions are still in their early stages, but we are pulling in the same direction as a cluster of destinations and looking into factors including travel, infrastructure, food waste and recycling.
Our goal is to ultimately go beyond net zero and give something back too, and we’re excited to share more details of plans in the coming year.
Building on our successes
A highlight in recent months has been our incredibly strong economic impact results for Coventry’s visitor economy in 2021 – with the research indicating that as a city, we are leading the way in the WMCA region’s post-pandemic recovery.
We know it is our responsibility at Destination Coventry to build on this and provide the support required to keep on an upward trajectory. The city enjoyed a major boost from UK City of Culture and 2022 Commonwealth Games, but now is the time to press on and further cement Coventry’s position as a tourism destination of choice.
Our in-house teams have delivered a number of strong destination marketing campaigns to keep that momentum going, with our summer campaign and then our Christmas campaign being the highlights.
We were delighted to help deliver a fantastic Christmas experience in the city centre, with Visit Coventry being a headline partner of Skate into Coventry. The event used our website and social channels and we pushed it through our own Christmas campaign too.
We are already making plans for a major heritage and culture campaign, alongside our regular seasonal campaigns. Coventry will be making its voice heard amidst major national events such as the Coronation in the year ahead.
Our reach continues to grow and we have made significant investment into our digital and traditional media channels. Our YouTube channel has soared by over 1.5 million views, while the combined reach of our social media accounts has risen by almost 200,000, with a huge increase in our followers.
On the membership front, we are approaching 100 members now, and have seven incredible patrons behind us, with more to come. Having the support of our members at all levels will be essential in helping us to continue our strong start as a destination management organisation.
And to support our members, we are continuing to develop the national and international reputation of Coventry and Warwickshire through attending major trade shows such as The Meetings Show, IBTM and Confex.
We’re set-up for another memorable year for both our Visit Coventry and Conference Coventry and Warwickshire brands.
- As an organisation, we need to continue to develop our DMO model as we progress through our proof-of-concept phase. We are continuing to work on our financial viability and making sure we have got a business model that is sustainable going forward. When setting up Destination Coventry, we had The de Bois Review’s recommendations in mind, and as a result are perfectly positioned to react to that review.
Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEP) are the future following the de Bois recommendations and we are well placed to apply to be an LVEP at the appropriate time alongside our regional partners.
- We have also started laying the foundations for our next tourism strategy, which will be a vision of the future of Coventry as a visitor destination.
However, we are not limiting ourselves to Coventry – we are also working closely with Warwickshire County Council on their destination management plan too.
- Challenges around recruitment and skills are set to stay, and as a region we need to work together to overcome those challenges. We will continue to collaborate with our partners at Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce and Coventry City Council, as well as others, to drive forward solutions in these areas.
- We will continue to look to invest and engage in major events that come to the city. We will couple this promotion with investment in our thematic and seasonal campaigns, and additional focused destination marketing campaigns.
- We are committed to developing the service offered by Coventry and Warwickshire Convention Bureau and thereby driving growth in the business events sector. Plans are in the works for a new venue referral service, which will use collaboration to keep economic wealth in our region.