Sidmouth support for new company boosting Devon’s tourism

PUBLISHED: 16:30 01 April 2017

The Visit Devon logo

The Visit Devon logo

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Civic and business leaders are getting behind renewed efforts to attract visitors to Devon, following ‘catastrophic’ attempts from other groups in the past.

Civic and business leaders are getting behind renewed efforts to attract visitors to Devon, following ‘catastrophic’ attempts from other groups in the past, writes Stephen Sumner.

Visit Devon has re-formed as a community interest company that is taking a proactive role marketing the county nationally and internationally.

Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce president Richard Eley told town councillors it is the best opportunity in quite some time to develop Devon’s biggest industry and urged them to get behind it.

Speaking at this month’s tourism and economy committee meeting, Mr Eley said: “I think we need to back Visit Devon very strongly.

“Historically, Devon’s tourism promotion has been catastrophically disastrous and an extraordinary mess. This is the first time that something looks like it’s been well organised and I think we should give them considerable support.”

Visit Devon secretary Simon Fishwick explained that, when South West Tourism was disbanded by the coalition government in 2011, promotion of the county fractured.

This left different areas of Devon, such as the English Riviera, to fend for themselves, without a joined-up approach.

Visit Devon originated as a website signposting to different organisations, but last year registered as a community interest company.

Mr Fishwick told the Herald: “We aim to represent Devon as a whole, so if someone goes to North Devon, they might go to East Devon next time. Devon has an incredibly high loyalty rate – people tend to come back time and time again. A lot of people bypass Devon to get to Cornwall. Cornwall’s biggest threat is Devon getting its act together. That’s what we are trying to do.”

Devon’s tourism industry is worth £2.6billion a year and employs some 62,000 people, but he said funding does not match that level of importance – Visit Devon’s £100,000 budget is a tiny fraction of Yorkshire’s £10million tourism budget.

Mr Fishwick added: “There’s a perception here it’s a lot of small businesses and the tourism industry isn’t entirely professional. They have to realise that the benefit to the economy is enormous. We are absolutely focused on turning that around.”

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