Sustainable Tourism

Sustainable Tourism

The Power of Stories

Blue Sail imageI suppose I should start this blog 'Once upon a time ....' because isn't that how all good stories start? Most of us remember with affection the nursery stories that were an important part of our formative years. As adults, stories continue to be part of our everyday lives, whether it is recounting an amusing incident to friends, sharing the day's activities with a partner or telling colleagues about our holiday adventures.

Places are full of stories. We see them in the design of buildings, in vistas, in the themes for festivals and museums, in the names and patterns of streets, by watching people going about their daily lives and in our memories about places. It is places and people together that engage us; the past meeting the present and our role in creating the next chapter. It is what makes places distinctive and interesting to visit.

In December Blue Sail launched Shared Story which is a people and place based approach to helping visitor destinations work well.

We start by getting together all the key interests to develop a story about their place and help them think through what that means for tourism now and in the future. We involve the many in the process, not just a chosen few. We then work with the destination in groups using Shared Story to help prioritise action and decide who leads on taking forward different activities. That means involving a wide network of organisations and individuals with an interest in tourism and a role to play in making things happen. We shape action into Blueprints for the destination – short practical documents with a clear rationale.

The emphasis is working with people rather than for them. Shared Story helps develop a mindset of ownership and involvement, exciting partners and getting things going.

We've been developing the process over the last year, trialling aspects of it in different locations and drawing on our extensive experience of working with visitor destinations. Shared Story is flexible so can respond well to local needs. Its whole place approach ensures it deals with development, marketing and management needs in a joined up way.

I'll be talking a bit more about the thinking behind Shared Story at the HTF National Tourism Conference at Blenheim Palace on 16 March. So I hope to see you there.

In the meantime I leave you with the following quote from a poem about Bury St Edmunds written by Ian McMillan, poet in residence for the Academy of Urbanism. This poem is one of several written especially for each of the shortlisted places for the Academy's Great Places Awards 2012.

Great stories, they say, have a narrative arc
And yet they should fit in a nutshell;

And there you have it; the best stories take us on a journey and manage to convey layers of meaning in just a few words.

Michele Grant
January 2012

Michele is a Director at Blue Sail and a long standing and active member of the Historic Towns Forum. She has been working in tourism and destinations throughout the UK for over 20 years.

Getting it Right

Submitted by admin on Tue, 03/01/2012 - 16:15
Date published
Sat, 01/01/1994 - 00:00

Getting it right

This guide sets out to help historic towns and other sensitive destinations coexist with tourism, an industry with a turnover of £30 billion, contributing four per cent of the GNP and supporting close on one and a half million jobs.  The underlying theme throughout this guide is the need to reconcile these very real benefits with the impact on the environment and the host community.  The visitor has not been forgotten either: happy visitors, who take away treasured memories of a place, are a sign of a successful and well managed industry.  Without attention to the needs of hosts, visitors and the environment, tourism's continued grwoth may not be sustainable into the next century. 

Format: PDF

 HTF Members can download this publication for free.

Local tourism firms urged to join the 20.12% discount scheme

The initiative will be launched next year by VisitEngland as part of a campaign to use the Games to boost domestic tourism. Under the scheme, holidaymakers booking a UK short break before the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Games will be eligible for a 20.12% discount.

The campaign will run throughout next year, backed with heavy-weight TV advertising. Already taking part in the scheme are Bourne Leisure, Superbreaks and Hoseasons. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has urged tourism businesses around the country to take advantage of the opportunity. Read more

National Tourism Conference - 16 March 2012

Culture-Heritage-Tourism: Developing the Product
Blenheim Palace: 16 March

The Historic Towns Forum, supported by VisitEngland, is delighted to announce the date of their National Tourism Conference, to be held at Blenheim Palace on 16 March 2012.

This conference is the first of a programme of events to celebrate the 25th year of the Historic Towns Forum, and comes on the last day of the first English Tourism Week, promoted by VisitEngland.

This practical event will demonstrate the links between Tourism, Heritage and Culture, and will offer strong models to develop resilient and innovative tourism in our historic towns and cities in spite of the economic climate.

Keynote speakers include Lady Cobham, Chair of VisitEngland, high profile politicians and leading figures within the industry. Subjects covered will be as wide-ranging as robust business modelling, addressing the skills' gap, and how to link existing culture and heritage into a saleable product. Speakers will also give advice on how to deliver information to visitors, how to manage tourism locally, and how to maximise the offer leading up to a year which includes the Queen's Diamond Jubilee and the 2012 Games.


Who should attend

Local Authority elected members and officers from all disciplines; Community, Parish and Town Councils; community leaders and representatives of community groups; civic and amenity societies; professionals concerned with all aspects of planning, conservation, tourism, heritage, culture, traffic management, urban design and economic development; all tourism professionals and anyone working in the tourism, heritage and cultural sectors.


Conference Venue:

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire OX20 1PP



Friday 16 March

09.00 Registration/tea/coffee    
09.25 Welcome and Introduction   Debbie Dance, Chair, Historic Towns Forum
09.30 Message to the delegates   His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales
09.40 Keynote Speech   Penelope, Viscountess Cobham – Chairman, VisitEngland
10.00 The Battle for Blenheim – developing a successful business model   John Hoy, Chief Executive, Blenheim Palace
10.30 Training, customer service, visitor experience   Gerry Brown, Head of Strategic Training & Operations, People1st
11.00 Q&A    
11.20 Tea/Coffee/Networking/Exhibitions    
11.50 Yorkshire Passions - bespoke training play   John Godber, Playwright
with Janet Reuben and assorted actors
12.35 Q&A    
13.00 Lunch    
14.00 Panel:
Local tourism - information as a product - how to develop and deliver
  Michele Grant, Director, Blue Sail
Sally Broom, Co-founder and CEO, TripBod
Susi Golding, Director, Visit Oxfordshire
15.00 Q&A    
15.20 Tea/Coffee/Networking/Exhibitions    
15.50 Panel:
Where culture, heritage and tourism connect - 3 case studies
  Paul Brookes, Cultural Olympiad London 2012, East Midlands
Jane Finnis, CEO, Culture24
John Fleming, Director, Ludlow Marches Food and Drink Festival
16.50 Q&A    
17.00 Plenary   Debbie Dance, Chair, Historic Towns Forum
17.05 Champagne tour of Blenheim Palace    

The Portas Review

At the end of 2008, the average town centre vacancy was under 6%, but at the end of 2010 it was 14.5%. If the decline continues at this rate in two years’ time almost a third of UK high streets will be standing empty.  So say studies carried out by the Deparment of Business and Innovation.

Mary Portas, star of shows such as Mary Queen of Shops and Mary Queen of Frocks has been asked by Government to advise on issues such as how to address the problem of vacant shops, prevent the proliferation of ‘clone towns’, and increase the number of small and independent retailers in local town centres.

Ms Portas is expected to finish her investigations by the end of the year and is due to report to Government on Tuesday 13 December.

Mary has received nearly 2,000 comments on her website from members of the public and high street retailers since the review began.

Findings from two HTF/EH workshops attended by a wide range of property professionals, retail practitioners and partnership organisations will also fed into the report.

High Street Review Out

According to ATCM studies, if the current highstreet decline continues almost a third of UK high streets will be standing empty in two years' time. So say studies carried out by Department of Businesses and Innovation.

Mary Portas, star of shows such as Mary Queen of Shops and Mary Queen of Frocks, has been asked to advise Government to advise on issues such as how to address the problem of vacant shops, prevent the proliferation of ‘clone towns’, and how to increase the number of small and independent retailers in local town centres.

Ms Portas is expected to finish her investigations by the end of the year and reported to Government on Tuesday 13 December.

Findings from two HTF/EH workshops attended by a wide range of property professionals, retail practitioners and partnership organisations fed into the report. 

The Portas Review was published on 13 December. The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has announced that the Government will respond to the review in the Spring. For inclusion in the ATCM offical position please read the review and send your comments to

An HTF conference on this subject will take place on 23 March. Register your interest.

Jeremy Hunt's speech to the World Travel Market on 7 November 2011

I’m delighted to be here this morning. The World Travel Market is one of the premier events in the travel and tourism calendar, and it’s being held at a most critical time for the industry.

As you heard from James, inspiration is the essence of any Olympic year, and it will certainly be the watchword for UK tourism in 2012.

A Government that ‘gets’ tourism
The Games offer us a unique chance to show just how valuable the global tourism can be to the global economy – and, yes, to issues of world concern, like sustainability, climate change and poverty that are rightly at the front of people’s minds today.

And to make the most of this special year, we know the tourism sector needs Government on their side.

That’s why in John Penrose, we’ve got a dedicated tourism minister – the first ever in the UK – though I appreciate we are playing catch up with what many other countries have done so well in term of looking after the industry’s interests.

It’s also why we’ve got a new tourism strategy: a new way of doing business, curbing bureaucracy, creating a more nimble, bottom-up, industry-led way of working for the digital age.

And it’s why we’re now getting our teeth into more than 60 regulations holding back the hospitality sector – from simplifying licensing, to scrapping rules on where you need to place no smoking signs.

Securing growth
Now I’m not saying we’ve cracked every issue just yet. But we are listening and we are responding – and we’re doing this because we know that a strong UK economy depends upon a strong UK tourism sector.

It is already our fifth biggest industry, and it could become one of our fastest-growing sectors over the next ten years, supporting as many as 3 million jobs by 2020.

And Fiona’s right to say that unlocking the huge markets of India and China is key. Forecasts tell us the number of visits from China alone could triple in the next decade.

We’re seeing the signs of this already. Visitors from China were up almost a quarter in 2010, and in the first eight months of this year numbers have risen again by a third.

Let’s remember the average Chinese visitor spends about three times more than the typical visitor whilst they’re here – our Chinese friends love to shop, and we provide plenty of opportunities in Britain for them to do just that!

The changing market for tourism
So the opportunity is there, the potential is there – but so is the challenge too.

As Fiona says, events in Thailand and Egypt show us that global tourism markets are fragile in the face of natural disaster or political upheaval – though as we see from outbound tourism in Japan, they can also be amazingly resilient.

In the UK, our tourism industry isn’t free from its own problems, but there are encouraging signs:

  • visits to the UK from overseas residents are up 7% in the second quarter of 2011;
  • Tourist spend per visit is 3% higher in the year up to August;
  • And domestic visitor spend in the first 6 months is also up 10% on 2010.

In the last year, the UK has also risen to third in the Nations Brand Index.

It shows improving global recognition of our charms and our strengths as a tourism destination, and it’s something that should give us real confidence as we look forward.

The Olympic challenge
And next year does represent an extraordinary chance to push on. Never again will the UK hold such a sustained and inspirational sequence of world class events.

  • The Diamond Jubilee in June, building on this year’s Royal Wedding – a fantastic moment of national celebration.
  • The great London 2012 Festival – more than a thousand events planned around the country, from music and pyrotechnics on Lake Windermere to an epic peace symphony in Birmingham.
  • The Torch Relay – Britain’s own fiesta moment, with eight thousand torchbearers carrying the Olympic flame to all parts of the UK during May, June and July.
  • And, then of course, the main event itself.  The 30th Olympic and Paralympic Games – the biggest sporting event in the world, coming to one of the greatest cities in the world.

The ‘GREAT’ campaign
So we have the highest hopes for next year. But we’re also mindful of what Shakespeare said – about expectations being “the root of all heartache”.

Previous Olympics, we know, haven’t always been plain sailing when it comes to tourism benefits.

And if we want to buck the trend and defy the tourism dip that other Olympic hosts have experienced in the past then we need a clear plan.

Visit Britain has already launched its biggest ever marketing campaign to promote the UK across our key markets.

But I’m now pushing this even further, working with the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and other colleagues across Government, to put tourism at the heart of our growth ambitions.

The result is that tourism now takes centre stage in a much wider ‘GREAT’ campaign launched by the Prime Minister in New York a few weeks ago.

GREAT is a single, integrated campaign for all international-facing parts of the Government, allowing us to speak with one voice in promoting the UK as a place to visit, to live, to invest and to do business.

It’s no small vote of confidence in the sector – and in the key role we think it will play in the UK recovery – that the lion share of the £39 million invested in the GREAT campaign will go to support Visit Britain’s tourism activities.

The combined Visit Britain/GREAT campaign now has £127 million behind it.

It’s being rolled out across our top priority markets, including as the emergent economies of China, India and Brazil, and it’s expected to generate 4.6 million extra visitors, more than 2 billion in visitor spend and nearly 60,000 jobs over the next four years.

Domestic tourism – the 20.12% deal
Let’s not forget too that this is the opportunity of a lifetime to support what has too often been a poor relation in tourism priorities – our domestic tourism industry.

Today, the route for the 2012 Torch Relay is announced: an 8,000 mile procession with 8,000 torchbearers featuring shows, events, festivals in every part of the country.

It really will be a great British celebration, a time for families and communities to come out and enjoy their own Olympic moment in their own country.

The relay will shine a light on Britain at its best – and it’s therefore the perfect moment to promote holidays at home.

Our ambition is to get the same proportion of people holidaying in the UK as go abroad for their vacation.

This will drive Visit England’s campaigns, and especially its new scheme offering a unique discount of 20.12%.

The campaign will run throughout next year, backed with heavy-weight TV advertising.

And I’m pleased that major names are already lining up behind it, with Bourne Leisure, Hoseasons Group, Superbreak, The Eden Project and the Coach Tourism Council among those already backing the scheme.

Over three years, we expect Visit England’s campaign will generate 12,000 new jobs, £480 million of extra tourism spend and 5.3 million more nights away on short breaks.

World Tourism Summit
As much as 2012 will define the country, it will also define the reputation of the UK tourism industry.

It serves as a test of how well we rise to the challenges and opportunities of an Olympic year. A test too, of our commitment to tourism as a global force for economic growth and increasing international understanding.

And so next year we will host a World Tourism Summit with Ministers from twenty of the world’s top tourism destinations coming together to discuss the power of events.

It is a chance for Governments to come together to reflect on 2012; to learn from what we intend to achieve in the UK, and to encourage new ideas and new ways of looking at events tourism in the future.

It takes me to the point I started with – that as much as next year is about amazing sport and top class performances, it’s also about inspiring a long term legacy.

It’s very much in our hands to shape and influence what we take from 2012, and as a Government, we want to facilitate this and make sure next year is the best-ever Games for tourism.

The World Travel Market, as a forum for discovery, for new ideas, fresh connections and, yes, some magic and inspiration too, is another step on this journey.

So I hope you enjoy the event, I wish you every success for the year ahead, and it’s now my great pleasure to formally declare World Travel Market 2011 open for business.

VisitEngland’s Regional Growth Fund Bid is Successful

The 3-Year tourism project, ‘Growing Tourism Locally’ will stimulate economic growth and jobs at a local level

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills announced on 31 October that VisitEngland’s bid for additional funding from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF) has been successful.

The money will be used on a three-year project entitled, ‘Growing Tourism Locally’. A key part of the project will be a national campaign aimed at inspiring Britons to take more short breaks and holidays at home and in doing so grow jobs in the tourism sector.

This is a huge boost for VisitEngland as the country’s national tourist board, working in partnership to facilitate growth at a local level, and an acknowledgement of the value of our industry to England’s economy.  With this additional money we can mount a serious campaign to stimulate domestic tourism that has the potential to create the equivalent of 9,500 full time jobs in areas across the country suffering economic challenges.

Our strategy is to work with tourism partners and the private sector at a national and local level. Our partners will manage elements of the campaign pertaining directly to their local destination, whilst VisitEngland will manage the national strategy which will support this local activity. We will work closely with Government on the next stage of the process which determines the terms and conditions of the funding.

James Berresford, VisitEngland’s Chief Executive

The national marketing campaign will see VisitEngland working closely with private sector partners to match fund the grant received from the RGF. 

The campaign will capitalise on next year’s once-in-a-generation events like London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, The Diamond Jubilee, the Cultural Olympiad, and the Torch Relay that will act as a catalyst to showcase the whole of the country.

The funding applied for will be allocated to a number of destination partners in England that will work closely with VisitEngland to design and implement local campaigns.  Some of those partners have already been confirmed and include Marketing Manchester, Marketing Birmingham, Bath Tourism Plus, Visit Peak District and Derbyshire, Cumbria Tourism and Visit York.   In addition to targeted activity in these areas there will be a series of thematic campaigns focusing on countryside, heritage, coastal and business tourism.

For more information or to set up interviews contact:

Sarah Long, Head of Corporate Communications Tel: 020 7578 1452, Mob: 07500555651, Email:  Website:

The list of local partners confirmed to date include many within HTF Local Authority Member areas:

  • Bath Tourism Plus
  • Marketing Birmingham
  • Destination Bristol
  • Visit Cornwall
  • Cumbria Tourism
  • VisitDurham
  • Visit Kent
  • Marketing Manchester
  • The Mersey Partnership
  • Newcastle Gateshead initiative
  • Northumberland Tourism
  • Experience Nottinghamshire
  • Visit Peak District and Derbyshire
  • Visit York

Economic Vision in Historic Towns - planning and regeneration York 20 October 2011

Conference overview - tweets from the day

Speakers' Presentations:

York's success as an historic town (851KB)
Prof Sir Ron Cooke
, Chair, York Civic Society

Vision into practice in historic cores of Great Places (2.23MB)
Kevin Murray
, Chairman, Academy of Urbanism

Future planning for regeneration and wider economic issues in historic towns (1.05MB)
Matthew Spry
, Director, Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners

Derry's historic walled town - traffic, parking and people: towards a balance (1.15MB)
Kevin McGovern
, Principal, RPD Consulting (Derry)

Marketing an historic town's USP by foot (2.08MB)
Sue Manley
, Director, PlaceMarque

Regenerating redundant heritage buildings and making them pay (420KB)
Rosi Lister
, Director North, Churches Conservation Trust

THIs and future funding (451KB)
Charlotte Dodgeon
, Programme Manager, Heritage Lottery Fund

THI - a suitable case for regeneration (752KB)
Anna McPherson
, Partner, Drury McPerson Partnership

THI case study - Shepton Mallet (494KB)
Paul Tomlinson
, Conservation Project Officer, Mendip District Council

Regeneration of a spa town case study - Scarborough (1.18MB)
Chris Hall
, Conservation Officer, Scarborough Borough Council

Lincoln Connect case study (1.42MB)
Adam Partington
, Townscape Character Projects Manager, City of Lincoln Council

Prince's Regeneration Trust case study - Sowerby Bridge (1MB)
Fred Taggart
, Projects Director, Prince's Regeneration Trust

Continued Growth for BIDs in Scotland. Apply for Grant Funding Now!

A one-off Scottish Government grant of up to £20,000 will be available as 'seedcorn' funding for each new Business Improvement District project that comes forward (subject to qualification criteria). These modest but useful sums act as a catalyst to enable partnership working and the development of realistic BID Proposals that are likely to be attractive to local private and public sector stakeholders.

BIDs can help grow the local economy, stimulate investment, deliver on the wider regeneration aspirations of the public sector and create strong local partnerships with direction and vision. BIDs Scotland Director, Ian Davison Porter, commented: "The BID mechanism has huge potential to leverage significant additional investment, secure supporting revenue streams, and deliver local services."

The use of BIDs is not restricted to towns and cities. A BID can also focus on a particular sector rather than a district, such as tourism, agriculture, rural areas and single business sectors such as golf and whisky.

Grant funding is still available. Contact Ian Davison Porter to discuss the potential of the BIDs mechanism in your area.