Now that we have looked at what cultural tourism is, understanding your visitor interests and how to create opportunities for cultural and tourism sectors to work together, we now look at the importance of creating a brand for your town, county or region.

How can you identify a brand?

As we saw from the Culture+ work in Sherborne, it is possible to bring together a group of different businesses in a town. These could include representatives from sectors such as hotels and Bed & Breakfast establishments, arts organisations and venues, heritage organisations, tourist attractions, self catering businesses such as caravan and campsites, art galleries, transport companies, retail, cafes and restaurants, and so on. Is there a local journalist, or councillor who could get involved? 

After you have brought together a group of willing people, then what follows could be an action plan. The aim is for your interested organisations to work together, partnering to build cultural tourism as an economic driver for their benefit. Try this process as a start:

A SWOT analysis

  1. What are your town’s strengths? These could be heritage assets, or a picturesque river. Do you have good transport links? Is the town used as a film location? Is there a famous resident past or present? Are there any hidden gems, or beauty spots?
  2. Next, what are the weaknesses? Is the town hard to get to? Is there a limited range of independent shops? Do you have tourist attractions, good transport links? Is there quality accommodation, car parking, are you affected by seasonality? Do those working in the town understand what visitors want?
  3. Opportunities – by working together could you create a new reason to visit? Is there funding to promote what you are proud of? Is there a local festival or event that you could use to attract people in?
  4. Threats – again, is what you offer too seasonal, is the town ‘dead’ in winter? Is there a nearby place that people would rather visit? Are you losing or at risk of losing what you have through low footfall or high business rates?

A PEST analysis

  1. What affects you politically? Do you have a supportive council? Does it understand the importance of tourism and/or the visitor experience?
  2. Economic – what brings in money. Are tourist or heritage attractions supported by quality places to eat, do they offer local food cooked on site? Does the town have quality accommodation for people to stay?
  3. Social – do people like living in your town and are they aware of what is on offer. Do they recommend to family and friends? Could they be encouraged to share the good things that are happening. Can residents help to make the place better ?
  4. Technology – how does a town appear to the outside world through digital platforms? Is there a specific social media campaign using hashtags to bring events or attractions to the notice of the wider public? Do people comment positively, are they given the chance to do so?

Next step

Decide together what is your place brand. What strengthens this and what weakens it? How can this be better? Do you have a natural leader who can take this forward with the group? Where could you find funding? 

Finding your brand, or unique selling point, is the first step to identifying what makes your town or place special, and attractive to visitors. Then, how can you use a town’s assets and potential to encourage trade and boost business? Take a look at the work we have done on finding Dorset’s brand here:

Why brands are important – why do people come to Dorset

People visit Dorset because of the scenery, the landscape, heritage, and history. They also come for events such as art festivals or sporting events of different kinds. Landscape, heritage and events are what contribute to Dorset’s sense of place. Visitors paint the scenery and experience county-wide events. They explore the hidden parts of Dorset on foot. They seek out things that are different or unusual or lovely to look at. They want to try local food and drink.

Someone who experiences any of the above is immersing themselves in Dorset’s culture, or brand. As we have seen, this type of visitor is a cultural tourist. They will often spend more money and tell other people about their experiences. They will make sure they come back and encourage other people to do the same. 

Dorset’s cultural USP (unique selling point)

The county has a stunning coastline and attractive rural landscapes. It has lively seaside resorts, rural towns and villages and a huge variety of visitor attractions. There are great opportunities for sport and active leisure. Dorset is near large centres of population such as Exeter, London and Bristol. Dorset is a popular tourist destination all year round, although seasonality can be a challenge.

Dorset has the Jurassic Coast, England’s first natural world heritage – a big attraction for visitors. Coastal landmarks include the rock arch at Durdle Door, the crescent-shaped Lulworth Cove and the dramatic cliffs at West Bay. 

Scenery and historical significance are some of the reasons people visit Dorset. To a visitor it is about everything they experience while in Dorset – both what they expect from the county, and the unexpected that it can offer. 

Communicating and promoting what people expect

It is important that all those working in the tourist industry (including cultural organisations) understand the brand of your town or region. Visitors will ask questions – they need information, and expect those working in a town to know. The tourism sector in Dorset has many seasonal employees, who may be from outside the county, and who do not know it well. But tourists expect people serving them to be able to help and give them local information. As we discussed in Chapter 2, if you are a customer-facing business it is important to ensure your employees know about Dorset – this is basic customer care and contributes to a good visitor experience.

Culture+ Tourism brought together facts about Dorset as a resource for employees. It gives an overview of what visitors might expect them to know. You can download your free copy here

Why brands are important – Sherborne

Why would visitors want to come? 

One of the first challenges that our work in Sherborne addressed was to find out what makes it a unique place. Once you have identified the brand of a place, it is easier to see who would want to come. Then you can think about the best ways to market your town to new audiences. You can download your own blank worksheet for your own town branding exercise here.

What is Sherborne’s cultural USP (unique selling point)?

The Sherborne group looked at several examples of what made the town special, but finally settled on identifying the town as ‘quintessential England’. This led to a discussion about how businesses could reaffirm this to visitors. You can see how we did this here link 

Communicating and promoting what people expect

The Sherborne group are now in the process of creating an action plan:

  • What are the quick wins? 
  • What would they like to achieve in six months, a year, two years? 
  • What are the next steps? 
  • Who is coming and who is likely to want to come? 

What we will look at in the next chapter

Once you have a clearer idea of the brand of your town, you can begin to look at how to market, and to whom.  In the next chapter we look at identifying your visitors and marketing to them, and how can you do this cheaply and effectively.