Champions Round Table- Travel and Tourism
While lockdown restrictions have eased and the world looks like it’s getting back to some kind of normality, the full impact of Covid is not yet predictable, on both revenue and supply chains within the travel and tourism industry. However, there is an opportunity for Chesterfield to build back stronger.
With curbs on travelling abroad, the staycation market is set to boom this summer with 73% of Brits saying they will choose to holiday in the UK even after travel restrictions are lifted.
Given Chesterfield’s proximity to the Peak District National Park, which has experienced a significant and sustained increase in visitors during the pandemic, how can Chesterfield capitalise on the staycation boom this summer, ensuring the area attracts not only day visitors, but overnight stays too?
That was just one of the topics discussed by our expert panel at this month’s round table which was, once again, held remotely using video conferencing technology.
Organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times, the round table brought together key figures from the visitor and tourism industry as well as local business owners to discuss how we can build back stronger out of the pandemic.
JM – Joshua Marsh – Destination Chesterfield Coordinator (Chair)
KS – Cllr Kate Sarvent – Cabinet Member for Town Centres and Visitor Economy, Chesterfield Borough Council
SK – Scott Knowles – Chief Executive, East Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire)
FT – Fame Tate – Director and Owner, Stanedge Golf Club
JC – John Croot – Chief Executive, Chesterfield Football Club
SD – Simon Davidson – Owner, RP Davidson Cheese Factor
LJO – Laura Jo Owen – Owner, Adorn Jewellers of Chesterfield
EC – Ewan Crilley – Lecturer in Hospitality and Tourism, University of Derby
JD – Jo Dilley – Managing Director, Marketing Peak District and Derbyshire
How much of a buzz has been created around Chesterfield since the easing of lockdown restrictions and how have local businesses and organisations been working to capitalise on this?
SD – There is a buzz in town. The three lockdowns we’ve had have all been different and, with the latest one, the council have been really helpful in giving us information and trying to get people into the town. There’s a lot of people coming into town, with some old faces and some new, and we’re starting to see some entertainment in town again.
KS – I don’t think we’re back to 100% in the town centre yet. Some shoppers are still wary – maybe that will change as the vaccination situation improves.
SK – Town centre footfall has felt quite normal when I’ve visited recently. Some of the retail units looked really quite inviting and it was clear that some retailers had taken the opportunity during lockdown to decorate or improve signage.
LJO – It’s a really nice friendly community in Chesterfield with the business owners working together. We work together on social media to promote each other, and we’ve even got a WhatsApp group where we can just have a chat.
JC – We had our first game back with fans a couple of weeks ago and there was a massive amount of work that went it to that. The season ticket holders get priority but there wasn’t a massive take up from them, so they went on general sale and were absolutely inundated with people wanting tickets. I think a large portion of our season ticket holders are older, so that was a learning curve for us.
KS – We recently reopened the theatre. The customers that visit tend to be older people. It was lovely to see it almost full, with social distancing in place. I think the real test will come when social distancing is scrapped, and we move back to open seating. Some people may not feel confident enough to visit.
JC – We’ve been talking about how to do some confidence building exercises here to help those that might not feel as comfortable coming down. We’ll make sure everyone is safe, but we want to make sure we make everyone as comfortable as possible too.
LJO – A lot of our customers are still really cautious so we’ve been making sure to let them know it’s safe to shop with us and it’s safe in Chesterfield town centre
FT – People were really excited to come back to the golf club and there was a real buzz for those first couple of weeks. We’ve got people sitting outside, inside and a takeaway hatch – but offering all this really stretches us and we can’t afford to employ any more staff at the minute. It’s been a tough time and we’ve just all had to pull together as a team to get through it.
A large proportion of the 13 million+ visitors to the Peak District National Park pass though Chesterfield to get there each year. What can Chesterfield do to position itself as a stopping off point for visitors?
EC – The biggest thing for tourism right now is experiences. People are always going to be looking for accommodation and they’re always going to be looking for things to do.
JD – Experiences are key and we’ve noticed that consumers are looking for last minute treats when they book. We’re now working on creating bookable experiences when they book accommodation. You’re almost packaging the break for them.
KS – Because of Covid, instead of big events, we’ve had to take the little and often route. We want to try and get footfall into the town centre at least every weekend. We’re listening to the traders to see what works best for them.
EC – Marketing the town to the younger generation is key. They want an ‘Instagrammable’ experience. They get that in the Peak District with the stunning scenery and experiences on offer. We need to look at what will attract young people them to Chesterfield.
KS – Chesterfield has a really amazing offer. We’ve got fantatsic accommodation, food and drink and the arts with two theatres. We are the gateway to the Peak District. We need to tap into this and really bring everyone’s ideas together.
LJO – Before opening Adorn Jewellers, my husband and I worked on cruise ships for many years. Chesterfield has a similar offering to a cruise ship – it’s a basecamp from which you can visit surrounding attractions but then return to the town for entertainment, night life, food and drink after your day out. There’s also the opportunity for businesses and organisations to work together and offer different packages for visitors who might be particularly interested in a specific element, such as history.
KS – I really like this basecamp idea. One of Chesterfield’s biggest strengths is actually one of its biggest weaknesses – the fact we’re easy to get to but also easy to get out of too.
JD – The way the sector is heading, if you’re not online and not bookable online, you’re going to lose out on a lot of those last-minute urges for people to treat themselves. If you’re sitting with a drink on a Friday night looking to book something, it needs to be just a few clicks away otherwise you’re going to move on to the next place.
LJO – The Peak District is very good at saying ‘we’re nearly full’. That makes people think they’ve got to book. If we’ve got limited beds in Chesterfield, we need to push the fear of missing out to potential visitors.
Is there anything that Chesterfield could use as a niche product to attract more visitors and market the town?
SD – We’ve got some great food and drink here in Chesterfield and some great products. With all the amazing food and drink as well as the Crooked Spire, I really do think Chesterfield is a destination. We must remember the market – I’d love to see that come back to thrive. I think there really is an opportunity for things like street food especially with the younger generation.
JC – We’re the only football club in the country that’s owned by a Community Trust and we feel like we’ve got a real part to play in helping the town recover from Covid. We share messages with our 200,000+ followers on Facebook and Twitter and have really got behind the Love Chesterfield campaign. I think the publicity we can bring to the town is huge. We had an International Women’s tournament here and Eurosport came down to film. Eighteen million people in the Far East watched it on TV.
KS – The importance of a successful football club to a town or city can’t be stressed enouhj. Look at what happened with Leicester when they won the Premier League, that really put them on the map and it’s a real destination now.
SK – In Chesterfield we’ve got all these developments happening and I think that partnership with the public sector remains important. I think Chesterfield has certainly done well in getting those essential funds out to businesses to help with that resilience.
SD – The town has a good mix of independent and chain shops, some which few towns have in the UK. We should really capitalise on the variety of independent shops and stores as well as our market. People love Thursday’s market when they visit the town.
LJO – You can find everything in Chesterfield. We’ve literally got a butchers, bakers and candle stick makers here!
KS – The Digital High Streets programme, funded by Chesterfield Borough Council, is going to be giving grants out to independent businesses to help them become fully ecommerce enabled and embrace modern methods of payment.
What can be done locally to encourage people here to love their town and promote it to friends and family?
LJO – I think the Love Chesterfield Campaign has been really good for promoting the town. We’ve been talking to our customers on social media recently and asked them what their favourite things about Chesterfield are – we got a great, positive response.
SD – It’s brilliant to see both traders and the people here, promoting the town and shouting about it.
EC – Sometimes when you ask people what they love about Chesterfield, they don’t really know. But, it’s about re-evaluating and thinking about all the good things we have going on here. I’ve lived in Derbyshire for 20 years now and I love it. We’ve got a great retail offering, a fantastic community, the Peak District is on the doorstep and so much more.
KS – I think people are now re-evaluating what they want in their life and where they want to live because of the pandemic. This is a really good time for people in the town to be shouting about what we’ve got.
LJO – It would be great to create a Chesterfield post card, which you could send off to friends and family with a ‘this is why you should visit Chesterfield’ message. It would work really well on social media too.
EC – That sounds fantastic. One of the key drivers for tourism is place attachment and it’s all about having residents attached to where they are. If you can get people to enjoy what’s on their doorstep, that’s half the battle.
Destination Chesterfield is part funded by contributions from local businesses, Chesterfield Borough Council and the European Regional Development Fund. The project is helping to improve the economic prosperity of the town through a campaign to promote Chesterfield.
The local business community plays a central role in its success by both leading an independent Board of Directors for Destination Chesterfield, as well as businesses pledging their support to become Chesterfield Champions.
For more information about becoming a Chesterfield Champion, visit http://www.chesterfield.co.uk/destination-chesterfield/champions/sign-up/