Tuesday, 31 March 2009

New tourism partnership could boost local economy

A NEW tourism industry partnership to promote West Somerset and Greater Exmoor is to be considered by West Somerset Council cabinet members next week.
They will be asked to work with potential partners to establish the form of any partnership before a further report comes back to cabinet later in the year.
If the cabinet agrees at its meeting on April 8, then council executive director Adrian Dyer and tourism portfolio holder Councillor Michael Downes will start the partnership ball rolling.
The partners could include the Exmoor Tourist Association (ETA), Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) and Active Exmoor.
The mix of private and public sector organisations have been working together to see if pooling resources and co-ordinating tourism services could underpin and enhance this important area of the West Somerset economy.
The idea of the new partnership evolved following the disbanding of Visit Exmoor in 2007, which came after disagreements between its numerous partners undermined its effectiveness.
Since then, the council has supported tourism through event co-ordination, providing a new Visitor Information Centre on Minehead seafront, and funding the district’s tourism guide Exmoor Coast and Country, which was produced in partnership with the ETA.
Active Exmoor, which is also part-funded by the council, has developed outdoor activities for visitors and the ENPA through its management plan and is committed to sustainable tourism projects to develop and enhance the visitor experience.
Now, through ‘a coming together of minds’, the group will explore what each partner can bring to the table by way of resource and/or money to deliver four essential tourism themes:
  • Marketing the area to attract visitors
  • Providing information on accommodation options
  • Letting visitors know what activities are available
  • Maintaining a good product by looking after and enhancing the local environment
Cabinet members will also consider approving the proposed partnership’s aim, which is to develop the area as a leading tourism destination based on providing a sustainable, quality experience for visitors which will, in turn, support and enhance the economy.
The partnership’s objectives will also be considered.
These include increasing visitor numbers and the duration of stays, ensuring the area is a leader in sustainable tourism, encouraging professional standards and consulting with the private and public sectors and local people.
Deciding resource and financial contributions, and the operation of a viable and professional partnership to achieve a vibrant industry are also seen as key objectives in delivering successful tourism services.
Councillor Downes, who will present the report next week, said: “I think this targeted, objective approach is very timely as the local economy needs all the support it can get at the moment.
“The recently approved economic strategy singled out tourism as an important sector to develop in order to underpin the local economy.
“The priorities and aims of the strategy dovetail with the propositions in the report.
“The input of private sector organisations such as the ETA, which is a very constructive and proactive partner, along with public sector commitment is important in making sure the visitor experience is enhanced so that people keep coming back to the area for holidays.
“In these uncertain economic times, I feel it is an excellent opportunity to combine the skills and knowledge of committed private and public sector agencies in a firm partnership.
“The partnership will consult with other local tourism operators to consolidate the area’s position as a quality tourism destination, and will be a key strength in leading this sector in future economic growth for the benefit of all local people.”

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