Attraction not Attractions
A Tourist City usually has Attractions; specific things or places to go, to see, to be. A City that is popular as a destination must have an attraction for a broader range of people. It should be an attractive place to get to, to stay and to leave.
Visitors for tourism reasons want ‘Attractions and Events’. I suspect that we are already quite good at the tourism pitch and that the ‘Brighton Calendar’ is quite full.
Last week I said that a small sample of data on why people stay overnight in Brighton & Hove showed that people are travelling to and staying in the City for a broader set of reasons than ‘Tourism’.
This begs some questions;
“What attraction does Brighton & Hove City, or the wider Region have for business people, students and families?”
“What can be done to improve the attraction that Brighton & Hove City and the Region has so that more people visit and spend with local businesses?”
My personal polling on this suggests that non-tourist visitors want:
- Affordable accommodation
- Great food and beverage experiences across a broad spectrum
- Ease of travelling around the City / Region
- High standards of cleanliness in the public realm
- Electric vehicle charging
- Child-friendly City
- A City with a strong arts and culture offering as well as progression and innovation.
And I think they don’t want to see examples of inequality and unfairness in our regional and City society.
Reputation as an asset
Those who visit for non-tourism reasons could be our best marketing channel to reach new tourists.
“We had such a great time visiting Julie at Uni in Brighton.
It was great to see her but the café culture and fine dining was amazing.
We’ll go back next year even though Julie will have graduated because
there is so much to see and do there – even in the winter months”.
I can imagine a dozen such narratives to describe our economic goals.
So, I suggest we could think more about how we imbue those non-tourist visitors with the excitement to become tourists and advocates; recommending our City and Region to others around the world.
Where to start?
I think an early place to start is looking at the thousands of Language School students that visit the Region every year. Apparently, the half dozen language schools that operate all year are supplemented in the summer, when the number of schools swells to ~30.
I wondered how many students come here just to learn the language? I went looking for data. This Brighton & Hove Connected report from 2014 acknowledges that there is a weakness in the data around numbers and how long students stay for.
However, pinching a headline from the 2017 English UK report ; The national figure for language school students is ~500k per year. For illustrative purposes we might estimate Brighton & Hove provides 10% towards that figure.
“50,000 people from overseas visit Brighton & Hove City each year to learn the language.
This improves their ability to form relationships in the area, to trade with us and to experience a Brighton way of life.
Their home-stay placements are scattered far and wide in the City Region.
They have to use public transport to get around.”
Are we proud of the Brighton & Hove City Region experience that these international advocates get?
Will the 18-year-old German student go home waxing lyrical about the place to his parents that run an international technology business? Can he persuade them to open a local office?
Would the 33-year-old Qatari student with a personal net worth of £100M return to his country and open negotiations to build a state of the art water adventure park in the city region?
Do we have any idea how much economic opportunity is drifting in and out of our Region based on the pretext of learning a global language at the seaside with nights out in London thrown in?
If we did realise this – how would we set out to optimise the experience that these lovely people have in order the establish with them a credible reputational asset of the City and the Region being amazing places to do business, to visit and to live?
Would this work be part of the brief for an Inward Investment team?
Key point: While tourism focusses on Attractions, a wider group of visitors want to feel an attraction to the place as a reason for re-visiting, becoming tourists, passing on a positive reputation to others.