At last nights Town Council meeting I informed the Mayor that for three of the four weeks leading up to the new year the footfall in Dartmouth was between -26% and -32% year on year (i.e. compared to the same week last year).
I asked the Mayor whether the Town Council fully appreciated the impact this footfall drop could have on the retail economy of Dartmouth and I also asked how the Council planned to confront this problem in order to reverse the decline. Secondly I asked,( for the third time ) in view of its importance to the tourist economy of Dartmouth, when will the Dartmouth Visitor Center be reporting its progress to Council, as agreed at the time the Council took over the running of the DVC some months ago.
As you can see below in the video of the Council meeting I received no answer from the Mayor at all, except to challenge “my footfall numbers”. I responded that these numbers were measured by Springboard, the organisation whose statistics to measure high street performance are used by the UK government and governments all over the world.
Listening to Councillors speak privately and questions to our District Councillors I am sure some of our Councillors are now waking up to the crisis our tourist economy is in. The loss of retail banking and the planned closure of several retail outlets in Dartmouth is, I believe, bringing this message home. But as yet I can report there is no sign that the Town or District Councils are planning to respond to this crisis, in fact I suspect that many of them don’t even accept it as a crisis.
The Chairman of the Board of the DVC, Cllr Bastone, gave a report to Council stating that the accounts for the DVC would be available for public scrutiny when they are completed and submitted to Companies House. He also stated that the DVC was solvent and that 60,000 visitors had been through the doors of the DVC last year.
To see the full Council meeting see the video from Topcameraman:
Sadly there was no opportunity for questions from the public so these are the questions I would like to have put to Cllr Bastone:
- How many subscribers does the DVC currently have and how does that compare to the number of subscribers over the last 10 years?
- Does the DVC understand why it has lost subscribers (for a long time their principal source of income) and what actions are the DVC taking to recover the subscribers they have lost over the years?
- How much investment does the DVC make in promoting Dartmouth outside the town in order to increase visitor numbers? (bearing in mind this is what subscribers are paying for)
- What control does the DVC have over both the Discover Dartmouth leaflet and the Discover Dartmouth website? i.e can they edit the website content to reflect current events happening in the town or promote special offers etc?
- Does the DVC have a digital marketing strategy of any sort? (successful destination marketing these days is backed up with a comprehensive Digital Marketing strategy).
- How does the 60,000 visitors number compare to similar periods over the last 10 years (I presume these numbers are available)
- What is the current turnover of the DVC? (In 2013 I believe it was about £120,000 but I could be wrong). And what proportion of that comes from subscriptions?
I have more questions but that is enough to be getting on with.
I believe that it is vital for Dartmouth’s businesses to work together, as they have done before, to address the problem of falling visitor numbers. The BID failed to address this issue despite a valiant attempt, but without the businesses of Dartmouth all pulling together the decline that is apparent now will continue. The Chamber of Trade has struggled to find support in the town but it is the only organisation that can pull the business owners together.
I appeal to business owners in Dartmouth, from retail, hospitality and accommodation to get together for the good of the town and show the community that we care about its future and can work together for the good of the town.
BECAUSE NOBODY ELSE WILL!