Two tourism services unite to benefit local business

Over 50 local businesses attended a special event at The Winchester Hotel last week, where tourism officers from Hampshire County Council and Winchester City Council unveiled plans to merge services.  Simplification and efficiency were the watchwords of the day, and the teams outlined their approach to managing and developing the visitor economy of the area in future.

Delegates heard about the latest developments in the tourism industry nationally and locally, and learned how a series of factors – including the withdrawal of regional government funding for tourism, changes in national government tourism policy, and the need to deliver local authority services in new and innovative ways - was driving the intiative.

From April 2011, the Visit Winchester and Visit Hampshire teams will become a shared service, with a view to evolving over time into a public/private sector ‘Destination Management Organisation’.  This new organisation would have responsibility for marketing the county’s destination and helping tourism businesses grow.  It would be led by businesses for businesses, but with the continuing support of the two authorities – and potentially other councils in Hampshire who are already watching the initiative with interest.

Councillor Dominic Hiscock, Winchester City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, explained, “We began to explore the possibilities for more formal collaboration last autumn, after years of successful partnership working with our County Council colleagues.  It became clear through our initial consultation with businesses that they wanted the support of one, relatively local tourism body – and not the many which exist at present.”

Councillor Ray Ellis, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Economic Development & Rural Affairs, added, “By working with the key businesses who already support the Visit Winchester and Visit Hampshire brands, we can create a really business-focussed Destination Management Organisation that enables the tourism industry to play a more active role in how the county is marketed to potential visitors. We have already had encouragement from Visit England the lead national tourism body,”

Sean Mannie, Chair of the Discover Winchester PR Consortium, said, “It’s a time of great change for tourism nationally, especially with the core funding of organisations such as Tourism South East being removed and with the abolition of the regional development agencies. Judging by the reaction of the businesses in the room, there is strong support for our initiative. The councils are acting swiftly to protect business interests at an otherwise uncertain time for the tourism sector.”

To find out more about the discussions which took place at last week’s Future of Tourism stakeholder event please see:

Tourism businesses who would like more information about the shared tourism service are invited to contact Ellen Simpson direct on or 01962 848 219.