Nationally-funded place-based projects – Discover England Fund, Great Place, Creative People and Places spring to mind – are important devices to galvanise places and clusters, but the trick is always to ensure that when the funding runs out, the momentum does not. Not all maintain momentum, but by taking a longer-term vision and committing to it, Bristol & Bath have been able to progress more than most.
Their Cultural Destinations programme connected two neighbouring but very different city offers and 28 partners. We started by conducting a ‘root & branch’ destination audit. That identified key priorities and opportunities to focus the collective energy.
We supported the collaborative two-city partnership through initial consultation, then mentoring the Project Coordinator and growing partnership, followed by delivering training workshops. We managed market research and evaluation of programmes and market performance (uprating the research model along the way, with The Audience Agency), and provided analysis of digital assets, spotting where gaps in capacity, assets and content existed. A key component was in supporting the development of new product and programming, e.g. The Bristol and Bath Art Weekender.
With the cluster, we developed complementary product offers, targeted (near European) international markets in partnership with Bristol Airport, and uprated their digital skills, assets and capabilities as a destination, not just as individual culture, heritage and tourism operators.
Strategic development and training, targeted campaigns (with more insightful evaluation), product development and new online platforms for the destination and individual partners have followed. With new skills and the confidence that comes with it, the improved online presence (individual organisations and jointly), and the strategic partnership working within and across the two cities has seen a new joint approach to marketing establish itself internationally.
Programmes continue to grow with positive early ROI, and a second successful Arts Council England Cultural Destinations programme. Additional funding was secured from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership, Bristol City Council and Bath & North East Somerset local authority.
Martin Pople, Destination Bristol
We helped to secure £500,000 of Arts Council England funding for Bristol and Bath.
We created a joint visual identity and campaign, rolled out in international markets.
Bristol and Bath have now come together to form one joint Destination Management Organisation.
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