Paul Jones, Managing Director of Destination Coventry, discusses the first eight months of our new destination management organisation (DMO) in this new blog.
He looks at the successes so far, how the DMO is perfectly positioned for the future and reflects on how leisure and business tourism are set to flourish in Coventry and Warwickshire.
We’re incredibly proud of the progress we have made as an organisation since launching at the end of 2021 – with both our Visit Coventry and Conference Coventry and Warwickshire brands thriving.
Our membership is growing nicely and we are continuing to add to our membership proposition, with four levels of membership now available.
We are a two-year proof-of-concept collaboration between Coventry City Council and Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, and we are confident that, so far, we have proved the benefits of a private and public sector alliance to grow and support the visitor economy.
As an industry, we are waiting for the Government’s response to The de Bois Review of Destination Management Organisations, which was published in September 2021, and whether the DCMS looks to implement Nick de Bois’ recommendations.
We were honoured to welcome Nick to Coventry last year and his review has been at the heart of developing the operating model for Destination Coventry – ensuring we fit the recommended framework and are ready if it becomes a reality.
As an organisation, we are very supportive of The de Bois Review’s recommendations and Destination Coventry fits well into the proposed model.
Conference Coventry and Warwickshire
At the time of launching our DMO, the conference, meeting and exhibition sector was readying for yet another disruption caused by Covid restrictions. Fast forward eight months and the industry has bounced back strongly, and we have been making investment to spread the word nationally that Coventry & Warwickshire is open for business.
Our continued efforts in PR and marketing have led to some brilliant profile for our DMO and our members – featuring in major industry trade media and even profiling our first Patron members.
This has coupled with investing heavily in trade shows, with the centrepiece being The Meetings Show, one of the biggest MICE industry events in the calendar. Our partners that joined us on the stand at this year’s show were overwhelmed with the delivery and the opportunities that have arisen from attending the event in London.
We saw some really nice examples on the stand of collaboration and referring of enquiries – and we want to bring that ethos and culture into our wider work with the region. We are committed to encouraging partnerships between our members and other regional stakeholders, ensuring we can keep economic wealth in Coventry & Warwickshire.
The region shouldn’t be letting opportunities go elsewhere, so we are encouraging all venues to refer enquiries back into our Convention Bureau if they aren’t able to convert them for whatever reason.
Our team is receiving enquiries every day from agents and organisers seeking to bring events to Coventry & Warwickshire. We are pushing those opportunities out in an un-biased way, to member and non-member venues, and will continue to do so.
We’ve had some huge successes this year and that has been driven by our knowledge and passion about the city and region we operate in. We attracted the West Midlands Tourism Awards to Coombe Abbey Hotel, hosted the TMI Annual Convention at Coventry Conferences and have attracted a huge heritage and cultural symposium to the city, which will be taking place in September.
We are ‘punching above our weight’ in the business tourism sector. Our team and its knowledge sets us apart from other agencies, we know how we can enhance experiences for people visiting the city and that has proved fruitful in recent months.
Our Visit team has run some incredible campaigns since the DMO’s launch and we are continuing to drive those campaigns to ensure our messages reach as many people as possible – regionally, nationally and internationally.
This was exemplified by our Winter Wishes campaign, which saw stakeholders work together across Coventry, and delivered on one of our core values of fostering collaboration.
The campaign couldn’t have been more multi-channelled – we deployed every possible marketing tool in the kit! Our Winter Wishes video amassed 1.3 million YouTube views in just four weeks.
Our food and drink campaign continues to be amplified and we received over 500,000 views in a month on one of our videos. This sector is very important to us and we are working closely with Coventry BID and Coventry City Council to support the city’s food, drink and night-time economy. This is one of the reasons we have sponsored the Coventry Best Bar None Awards and the Coventry & Warwickshire Foodie Awards.
Destination Coventry is a vehicle for getting sector stakeholders working together, and amplifying messages to make bigger and better campaigns. People seem to be really open and warming towards us and the work we are doing.
This has been shown when we have welcomed journalists and group travel buyers into the region. Stakeholders have helped us to put together amazing itineraries, and our relationships with hotels and visitor attractions are building a reputation that it is really easy to do business with Coventry & Warwickshire.
Nationally, we have built relationships and a positive reputation with VisitBritain and Visit England – proving again that we punch above our weight in the national tourism body arena. This is allowing us to link in with national campaigns too, and receive the regional benefit.
Those relationships will make sure the voice of Coventry & Warwickshire is heard at a national and international level.
While we are proud of the work we have completed to-date, we know there is still a lot to be done and we are excited about the opportunities that will be presented as we work towards the end of our two year proof-of-concept.
We haven’t lost sight of our business plan and we always have an eye on delivering that plan.
As part of the plan, we outlined our ambition to drive investment and support to tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses across the region. We have started to deliver that, with the support of our Coventry City Council and Chamber of Commerce colleagues, and we have plans to expand our sector specialist brokerage of support and funding in tourism, leisure and hospitality.
We’re making great progress in getting the sector on the agenda, and emphasising the impact it has on the local economy, which is already bearing fruit with Additional Restrictions Grants (ARG) and Community Renewal Fund (CRF) grants for businesses in our sector.
Our four key goals for the DMO over the next six months are:
- Secure our future. Proving to ourselves and funders that we are financially viable by the end of our proof-of-concept period. When setting up the DMO, we didn’t know what ‘normal’ was going to look like following the pandemic – but now we have a better idea of that outcome. We’ll continue to look at the de Bois recommendations and secure our place in that framework.
- Lead on the the creation of the next Tourism Strategy for Coventry. The current strategy was commissioned when we won our UK City of Culture title. We will start to look at its next iteration and have already started to develop a strategic vision for the city. What do we want Coventry to look like in five years’ time? But we’re not limiting ourselves to Coventry, we are also working closely with Warwickshire County Council on their destination management plan.
- Build on the strong foundations we have set. We will be looking to consistently earn enough money to continue doing the good work we do and deliver on our business plan. We want to be able to continue delivering strong seasonal campaigns and evolve our series of thematic campaigns too – all with a collaborative approach across the sector.
- Growing awareness of the Convention Bureau through continued promotion of the region at major business events. This means further investment in trade shows and ensuring we are attending the three big core business events shows: CHS Birmingham, The Meetings Show and Confex.
We look forward to continuing to build partnerships across the sector, welcome new members to our organisation and be the voice that tourism in Coventry & Warwickshire deserves on a regional, national and international scale.