The Cotswolds is a beautiful area in England that spreads over 80 miles and is in possession of a distinct local character and history. It is a trendy tourist destination, although residents are keen to escape the stereotype of “Quintessential England” that governs the perception of the area (Brown, 2006, p. 16). The Discover Cotswolds Initiative seeks to challenge this stereotype and focus on the distinct local flavor of the many destinations found in the Cotswolds, not just the most popular ones, all while achieving the overall goal of increasing tourism year-round. Destination Management Organisations in the region hold as their key objectives: increasing engagement from local suppliers, establishing an eco-system of local tourism-centered businesses, enhancing the visitors’ experiences through the training and skills development of those in the tourism industry, and the overall encouraging of sustainable tourism initiatives (Destination Management Plan, 2018). These objectives aim to increase the social, environmental and economic benefits of tourism for the entire sector.
The key objectives this report proposes to focus on for are: increasing marketing activity to attract visitors from key markets across the EU and within the UK, and encouraging the different groups focused on this sector across the region, namely tourism enterprises, public and private sector organizations and local community groups to combine their efforts and work concurrently. The implementation of these proposed activities in 2021/22 is justified through the challenges currently facing the region and the opportunities afforded by the pursuit of these objectives (Page and Connell, 2020). Creativity in devising new destination management techniques has shown itself to be hugely rewarding (Smith, 2006).
A better and more coherent marketing strategy will allow tourism companies to overcome the challenge inherent in the current perception of the Cotswolds as a destination solely for the wealthy and lacking in appeal for the young, that so limits visitor quantity (Bingham, 2009). Enabling different DMOs and organizations to work together more closely and offer a coherent message to potential visitors will combat the challenge currently facing the Cotswolds region in providing a universal message instead of conflicting advertising which causes difficulties presently (Destination Management Plan, 2018). Pooling both resources and knowledge between different DMOs, local businesses and organizations will ensure the long-term sustainability of tourism in the Cotswolds (Allen et al., 2018). It will also allow for more up-to-date and comprehensible data on different visitor trends, which will, in turn, allow for a better understanding of visitor likes and dislikes.
Whilst the proposed objectives will take the main focus in this report there are also a number of different objectives that ought to be addressed by DMOs to benefit Cotswolds Tourism and the region in general. One of these is product development, which can be utilized to deepen or broaden the authentic, experience-based products that are currently on offer (King, 2002). Another is the possibility of extending the tourist and visiting season thereby improving the book-ability of the product (Lane, 2007). Another objective that must be addressed is the issue of over-tourism in especially sensitive areas, particularly at peak visiting times (Hoffman, Fainstein and Judd, 2003). And finally, supporting small and underdeveloped local businesses to really maximize their opportunities from tourism in the region is another key objective of destination management in the Cotswolds.
The reason for the proposed activities in the year 2021/22 rests in the ever-changing landscape of the tourism business and the need for the region’s strategy to reflect the changing times in order to continue as a popular destination. Indeed, studies like that by Laesser and Beritelli (2013) and by Reinhold, Laesser and Beritelli (2015) emphasize that the time has come to consider alternative approaches to destination management to achieve the continued thriving of the tourism sector. Action must be taken to make positive the impact of tourism and ensure it is effectively managed in relation to a variety of stakeholders, all within the framework of current issues emerging in destination management on the whole and particularly in the case of the Cotswolds as a tourist destination (Morrison, 2020).
Increasing marketing activities across the Cotswolds to attract visitors from key markets across the EU and within the UK will be achieved through several strategies and campaigns. Growing the number of international visitors, in particular, has been a key focus area of the long-term tourism strategy for the UK as a whole for the past decade (Destination Management Plan, 2018). One of the objectives of the initiative is to draw attention to the unique heritage of the region (Morgan, 2004). Heritage can be described as “culture and landscape that are cared for by the community and passed on to the future” (Merriman, 1991, p. 8). And indeed, the local community is seeking to protect the distinctness of their local heritage from generalization and oversimplification as quintessentially English (Brown, 2006). Marketing the region’s unique heritage and cultural history in a new and exciting way will attract a greater range of visitors (Middleton, 2009).
Another avenue that might be addressed is the lack of land space for new businesses and industries, together with an abundance of unused and decaying historical properties (Cotswold District Council, 2017). Through a comprehensive marketing campaign, there is an opportunity to allow for unused historic buildings to get a new lease on life and be reused for alternative and tourist-friendly purposes while being maintained as historical assets.
A potential difficulty in conjuring and enacting a new and attractive marketing campaign is the financial difficulty that so often plagues DMOs, limiting the number of resources that can be spent on campaigns (Hristov and Ramkisson, 2016). The success that marketing campaigns have driven in other destinations serves as a reminder that perhaps it is time to reappraise current approaches to strategic processes and practices within DMOs (Morgan, Hastings and Pritchard, 2012).
Indeed, challenges facing traditional DMO setup act as a wake-up call for the industry and suggest that the time has come to explore alternative models of governance (Laesser and Beritelli, 2013). Setting a marketing drive as a key objective to growing tourist activity will pay economic dividends to the region and allow DMOs to tell the region’s story effectively.
Encouraging and enabling different DMOs and organizations to work together more closely and offer a coherent message to potential visitors is key to achieving the objective of sustained growth and success for Cotswolds Tourism. Indeed, according to Hristov and Ramkisson (2016), assembling resources and knowledge is an absolutely crucial element of safeguarding “long-term sustainability” (Hristov and Ramkisson, 2016, p. 230). Powell and Clark (2013) also point out that the lack of cooperation leads to “duplication of efforts and ineffective utilization of resources” (p. 16) on the part of DMOs, local businesses and regional authorities. This is partially caused by the substantial size of the region, though visitors are wont to see it as a single homogenous destination (Powell and Clark, 2003). However, it also plays a crucial part in decreasing the efficacy of DMOs’ work in the region.
This lack of coherent message damages Cotswold’s attractiveness as a prospective destination. Research into people’s knowledge of and ideas about the Cotswolds revealed how many differing opinions there are on what can be found in the region (Powell and Clark, 2003). Pooling resources between DMOs will allow for better management of the impacts of tourism on the area. This will enable the social and environmental costs of developing and encouraging tourism to be considered when developing the tourism strategy (Sharpley, 2018). A focus on short-term profits can lead to long-lasting damage to popular tourist destinations such as the Cotswolds (Sharpley, 2018). A single universal strategy that considers potential risks and focuses on the long-term would thus unquestionably be hugely beneficial to both the tourist industry within the region and the region itself.
A key goal of any DMO is achieving a “competitive market position” for their destination (Pike, 2017, p. 126). A coherent understanding and marketing of the destination image are required for success in this goal (Pike, 2017). Achieving a cohesive destination image is one of the challenges currently facing the tourist industries in the Cotswolds. Moreover, modern-day visitors are increasingly desirous of unforgettable and captivating experiences (Smith, 2006). For this to be achieved, various organizations within the Cotswolds need to pool their resources and agree upon long-term plans and ways of implementing them.
Overall, both the implementation of new marketing activities and the encouragement of better teamwork and cooperation between different DMOs are effective ways of overcoming contemporary issues facing tourism in the Cotswolds. An innovative marketing activity will help attract increased scores of visitors from essential markets, thereby increasing visitor numbers and allowing for a greater diversity of offerings for businesses within the Cotswolds. By encouraging different DMOs to work together more closely, a more coherent message of what the Cotswolds are will become available to visitors. Furthermore, a cohesive data-sat that can be used as a research tool in developing long-term destination management strategies for the region will become available.
To overcome the limitations of this research, allowances should be made for the extent to which the global pandemic has derailed many traditional tourist practices and affected peak visitor seasons. Concerning European markets, non-English resources should be considered when planning any marketing activity aimed at visitors. Furthermore, in the case of key European markets, in particular, a cross-national analysis of visitors trends, preferences, and turn-offs should be brought into planning any marketing activity aimed at visitors from those countries.
As with any long-term strategy, the timescale for successfully implementing and achieving these objectives is fairly intimidating. Pooling resources and knowledge will undoubtedly be a tremendous undertaking and is unlikely to be fully realized in the 2021/22 time period. Likewise, the economic consequences of the pandemic may affect the budgetary allowance for marketing, thereby slowing the progress. However, as this report has endeavored to show, both these objectives will enable the long-term sustainable growth of tourism in the Cotswolds and should thus be pursued within the present limitations.
Allen, M. D. et al. (2018) Tourism policy and planning: yesterday, today, and tomorrow. United Kingdom: Taylor & Francis.
Bingham, J. (2009) The Cotswolds: a cultural history. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Brown, K. (2006) Karen Brown’s England, Wales and Scotland: exceptional places to stay and itineraries. United States: Karen Brown’s Guides.
Cotswold District Council (2017) Cotswolds district council business delivery plan. Web.
Hoffman, L., Fainstein, S. and Judd, D. (2003) Cities and visitors regulating people, markets, and city space. Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub.
Hristov, D. and Ramkissoon, H. (2016) ‘Leadership in destination management organizations’, Annals of Tourism Research, 61(C), pp. 213–267. Web.
King, J. (2002) ‘Destination marketing organizations–connecting the experience rather than promoting the place’, Journal of Vacation Marketing, 8(2), pp. 105–108. Web.
Laesser, C. and Beritelli, P. (2013) ‘St Gallen Consensus on destination management, Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 2(1), pp. 46-49. Web.
Lane, M. (2007) ‘The Visitor Journey: the new road to success, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 19(3), pp. 248–254. Web.
Merriman, N. (1991) Beyond the glass case: the past, the heritage, and the public in Britain. Leicester: Leicester University Press.
Middleton, V. T. C. (2009) Marketing in travel and tourism. 4th edn. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Morgan, N. (2004) Destination branding: creating the unique destination proposition. 2nd edn. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann.
Morgan, N., Hastings, E. and Pritchard, A. (2012) ‘Developing a new DMO marketing evaluation framework: the case of visit Wales’, Journal of Vacation Marketing, 18(1), pp. 73–89. Web.
Morrison, A. M. (2019) Marketing and managing tourism destinations. 2nd edn. London: Routledge.
Page, S.J. and Connell, J. (2020) Tourism: a modern synthesis. London: Routledge.
Pike, S. (2017) ‘Destination positioning and temporality: tracking relative strengths and weaknesses over time, Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Management, 31, pp. 126-133. Web.
Powell, J. and Clark, M. (2003) Cotswold AONB survey 2002: your ideas, concerns and aspirations. (Project Report). Cheltenham: Cotswolds Conservation Board.
Reinhold, S., Laesser, C. and Beritelli, P. (2015) ‘St Gallen Consensus on destination management, Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 4(2), pp. 137-142. Web.
Sharpley, R. (2018) Tourism, tourists and society. 5th edn. London: Routledge.
Smith, M. K. (2006) Tourism, culture and regeneration. Wallingford: CABI Pub.