Claire Thayers talks: Why the Visitor Economy matters...

Gloucestershire countryside along the Cotswold Way (c) allou / Getty Images

Gloucestershire countryside along the Cotswold Way (c) allou / Getty Images - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Do you ever stop to think about the importance of the Visitor Economy and how it affects you, your business and local area?

I’ve always struggled with the word ‘tourism’ as most people automatically think of hotels, pubs, local attractions, whilst many businesses simply don’t think of themselves as part of that industry...but say “Visitor Economy” and it might just change your point of view.

To help encourage revenues and investment into the Visitor Economy, we should aim to make our regions, counties, towns and villages wonderful places to work rest and play and manage them as their own brands. VisitCornwall is one example of how branding a region can work successfully.

One positive example of how towns can take advantage of the Visitor Economy and create a global brand is Cheltenham, with the global spectacle that is the Cheltenham Festival. Taking place in mid-March every year, this annual event run by The Jockey Club helps bring in over £100m in revenues to Cheltenham and the wider Gloucestershire economy as well as creating new jobs and revenues streams for local residents.

With over 100,000 people visiting Cheltenham during the week, many of the town’s local businesses from hotels, bars, restaurants and shops benefit hugely as consumers spend large sums during the week. Additionally, many residents benefit from renting their homes as there is a huge demand in accommodation with a lack of beds during the week. This is an opportunity for local and rural businesses owners to diversify into services that support the Festival.

Moving on from horse racing, another example is education and how universities, colleges and schools are actually a key part of the Visitor Economy as they attract domestic and foreign students who all spend money in their local area. The more money spent into the local economy has to be good for us all, especially the local businesses that benefit, be it coffee shops, pubs, clothing stores, hotels, local grocers, gyms etc. Oxford, Cambridge, Warwick and Durham are great examples of how towns maximise their educational institutions to boost their economies by attracting visitors.

If we can help to support the Visitor Economy through buying local and visiting local attractions, we can help enable businesses to grow, develop and diversify as they look to re-invest in their enterprises.

The Visitor Economy is therefore a powerful force for positive transformation and financial sustainability as towns, villages and areas attract more people as they become more popular and attractive. Local people in those areas will want to sustain revenue flows year-on-year, meaning they will want to continue to improve their businesses and surroundings to attract more people to visit and spend in their area.

By encouraging rural businesses likes farms to diversify into the Visitor Economy, they can create sustainable new ventures that are attractive to domestic and foreign visitors. The impact is enormous, but it’s important that we provide the fishing rod and not the fish.

For more information, visit the Folk2Folk website here.

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