Singing from the Same Song Sheet

image Big Sing

As if I needed any more persuading that the arts and tourism sectors need to work more closely together, I read some interesting statistics the other day from the Visit Britain website.

Did you know that British Tourism was forecast to be worth £127 Billion in 2013 (9% of the UK’s GDP) growing to £257 billion by 2025? And that in the 2014 Anholt GfK Nations Brand Index, the UK retained the 3rd place top nation brand (out of 50 nations) and that looking at the dimensions relevant for tourism, the UK ranked 3rd out of 50 nations in terms of a ‘Tourism’ brand and 5th for Culture.

So tourism is a fantastically lucrative market to join and our “culture brand” is already a well recognised global brand. Joining tourism and the arts together in more productive and positive ways makes sense financially. Didn’t someone once say “it’s the economy stupid!”?

The stats I have being reading also suggest that the South East has a particular market share that might be worth looking at more closely. The South East apparently attracts more holiday visits that include children than any other area in the UK. An interesting stat. Why would the South East be particularly attractive to children? It definitely needs a bit more in-depth examination as to the whys and wherefores. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ferry/coach trips for schools has something to do with it as well as the huge number of language schools in the area that attract school children from across Europe. This market share is something Culture Kent and Turner Contemporary wants to understand and explore further. We want to work in partnership with our language schools. We’ll let you know how we get on and what we find out in more detail later.

Image Folkestone Triennial

Folkestone Triennial

Whilst the South East might be good at attracting children, what is slightly more alarming is the fact that, although museums are notably often part of a visit to the South East, other cultural activities are faring much less well. Around 15% of visits include going to an art gallery as opposed to a national average of 26%. This comes despite the significant investment in the cultural infrastructure in the South East (Jerwood in Hastings, Folkestone Triennial, Turner Contemporary in Margate, to name but a few). The South East also attracts relatively few visits which include going to theatres, live music or festivals. Again we don’t know the details of why this is the case but again some of the research that we will carry out of over the course of the next two years will hopefully build a better picture of our understanding of South East tourists, their motivators and their spend.

What the research does indicate however is that cultural organisations have an opportunity here to grow our market place and to build our attendances. Kent, in particular, has a great opportunity as it attracts the most overseas visitors in the South East of England, not including London. By working with our tourism partners we can open our doors to the world, increase footfall to our cultural venues, increase spending to the local economy and help ensure that the UK not only remain one of the top global cultural brands but perhaps becomes THE top brand.

The point of Culture Kent is to try to do some experiments, pilot some initiatives which target those tourist markets, and find more about the tourist markets, their motivators and their behaviours during their time in our wonderful county. Joining the culture and tourism sectors makes sense nationally and locally. By doing things on a micro or smaller scale we can perhaps try things out that we wouldn’t otherwise have a chance of doing nationally. And we can monitor results more easily.

None of this should be done in “glorious isolation”. Audiences (whether they are specific tourist audiences or locally based audiences) are key. And so Culture Kent is also joining forces with a new initiative, “We Love Our Audiences”, and we will explore more ways of joining together our understanding of audiences – particularly looking at cross-fertilisation of audiences and potential audiences (for example – do visitors to Port Lympne Zoo go to the Gulbenkian Theatre in Canterbury? How can we help entice them to if they don’t?). We’re having an exploratory session and bringing together some brilliant examples of collaborative work to provide inspiration for discussion. The plan is to challenge ourselves to agree on what we want to do next and how we can make that happen. This session is happening on 5th February at the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury. We will update you on our discussion via this blog.

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