District tourism partners unite as visitor numbers surge

An increase in staying visitors has been confirmed in Winchester this summer with buoyant statistics reported from a number of the district’s accommodation providers.

Morn Hill Caravan Site on the A31 reported a 40% increase in visitors for the season; whilst Folly Farm has seen a 10% rise in occupancy.

Self-catering provider, South Winchester Lodges, also confirmed an increase in bookings with Emma Ross, Marketing Manager, commenting: “We’re seeing a rise in enquiries and a quicker turnaround this year with more and more people taking short breaks at shorter notice.”

Larger hotels in Winchester have also experienced a rise in customers. Andrew Mosley, General Manager of Norton Park Hotel, said: “We have certainly seen an increase in the leisure market over the summer months with many guests staying with us on short breaks to visit the local area.”

To welcome this influx of visitors, Winchester City Council’s tourism team has been developing a more modern image for the city.

This August saw the launch of several new initiatives to make Winchester more competitive as a vibrant and cultured heritage destination. This included an upgraded visitor website
www.visitwinchester.co.uk with new features on cricket and Jane Austen, a linked Twitter presence,  and an online booking capacity.

As reported earlier this month, the long running, council-supported tourism consortium, Discover Winchester - made up of key tourism partners including Winchester Cathedral, Fort Nelson, Theatre Royal and Marwell Wildlife - switched PR agencies this spring in a bid to increase the impact of the PR coverage it nets for the district. The decision to move to Flagship Consulting is already paying off, with double the coverage for Winchester in national and regional media between June and August this year compared with last year.  It is expected that this figure will rise as the district’s campaign builds momentum.

Meanwhile, in another first for Winchester, key players in local tourism are uniting with the council to give all visitors to the district a consistent message and image.

Tourism Marketing and Development Manager, Ellen Simpson, explained: “Arriving in a new destination can be a bewildering experience for a visitor. Enter any tourist information centre in the UK and you’ll be met by an array of confusing literature in all shapes and sizes. Here in Winchester, we’ve been looking at how we work with the major players in the district, including Winchester Cathedral, the Business Improvement District (BID) and the parish councils of our bigger market towns, to present a cohesive image for Winchester’s tourism marketing.”

The new branding has already been launched on
www.visitwinchester.co.uk and in the Winchester Pocket Guide. It will now be extended to publications produced in partnership, such as the New Alresford Pocket Guide, Bishop’s Waltham Pocket Guide, the Christmas in Winchester guide and website, and the new BID-funded Winchester: Where to Shop map.

The new move is set to revolutionise the way ‘official’ tourism literature is presented so that visitors can instantly recognise a source of high quality information.

The approach is also extending to a series of special ‘staycation’ initiatives for local residents day-tripping around the area.

Cllr George Beckett , Leader of Winchester City Council and portfolio holder for economy and tourism, said: “As a council we want to ensure that local residents and businesses benefit from the opportunities that the national trend to holiday near home affords. A special programme of initiatives under the branding ‘Your Winchester is underway to encourage people to rediscover the Winchester District and to support local businesses in the process. Look out for the launch of the first two trails on the back of the latest edition of Perspectives magazine.”

The tourist information centre is open from to Monday to Saturday and on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays. You can contact the centre on 01962 840 500, e-mail tourism@winchester.gov.uk or via the website at www.visitwinchester.co.uk