These are the latest footfall figures for Dartmouth Quay.
Now that the schools have returned the visitor numbers have dropped significantly in Dartmouth. Down by 25% on the previous week and down 38% on the previous year. Both the UK and South West figures have seen a smaller drop than Dartmouth. Why?
There will be an important debate during the Town Council meeting on Zoom tonight, after the Dartmouth Visitor Centre decided to develop their own website in direct competition with Discover Dartmouth, run by Visit South Devon. The Town Council must now debate how they can continue supporting the Dartmouth Visitor Centre under these new circumstances.
The Visitor Centre is the only resource the town has with a responsibility to attract visitors to the town.
On the surface it does seem a bad decision to develop a new website to compete with the existing, established site Discover Dartmouth, with an impressive circulation and high hit rates established over many years. However it is clear that the agreement between the TIC and Visit South Devon has not worked well for the Visitor Centre and may be the reason for their decision to go it alone.
Looking in from the outside its possible to suggest that the real problem is that the Discover Dartmouth website has never really delivered the results its subscribers need to justify paying the subscription fees. The conversion rate from website visit to actually booking accommodation has always been poor so the solution to today’s problem is actually to try and understand why the conversion rate is so poor and then to rectify the problem.
In our view the Tourism website alone is never enough. It must be backed up with a comprehensive digital marketing strategy, which includes the use of social media, pay per click advertising and other digital techniques which will increase the sites following into the millions, not just the thousands. This strategy does not appear to exist today. However this is not an easy strategy to implement, but without it there will never be enough subscribers willing to pay enough to keep the site, and the visitor centre going, especially to keep two websites going!
Resolving this will not be easy. It depends on an open, transparent, honest discussion about the current situation between the right people with the right knowledge and the will to make a decision in the interest of the whole town. Lets see what happens at tonight’s Council Meeting.
Watch this space for future reports.