Here is an extract from a press release, sent out by Dartmouth TIC on Tuesday and published today, which shows they have decided to end their partnership with Dartmouth BID Ltd and sell their website to a third party. They have already abandoned the Dartmoutheverytime Branding, which was funded by the BID and formed the whole basis of the destination marketing programme after extensive consultation with Dartmouth business owners.
Press release from Dartmouth TIC
Future of Dartmouth TIC boosted by new partnerships The future of Dartmouth’s award-winning Tourist Information Centre (TIC) has been given a boost this week following the announcement of two new partnerships to ensure the long-term security and continuation of the website www.discoverdartmouth.com and the Discover Dartmouth Tourism Guide.
From 1st May, Visit South Devon will be taking over ownership and management of www.discoverdartmouth.com from Dartmouth TIC, while We Make Magazines will assume responsibility for the publication of Dartmouth’s annual tourism guide.
Under the arrangements Dartmouth TIC will receive a profit share from both the guide and the official tourism website for Dartmouth, yet it will be relieved of all overheads linked to their production and management. Visit South Devon will assume responsibility for the website, recruitment of advertisers and management of Dartmouth’s official tourism social media accounts, utilising its in-house team’s extensive knowledge, resources and expertise to drive traffic to the website, adding value to its subscribers. Under the deal an agreed percentage of all future profit made from www.discoverdartmouth.com will be paid to the TIC to assist it with its annual running costs. All other profit from the site will go towards promotional and marketing activity to raise the profile of Dartmouth and the wider South Devon area nationally and internationally.
In the email to which this is attached the TIC list the organisations they will work with which does not include the Dartmouth BID. So the TIC has formally abandoned its relationship with the Dartmouth BID and sold an asset that BID members (that’s you ) invested £80,000 in developing and promoting. At the time of that investment the BID Board was warned that they must retain shared ownership of the website in order to protect members investment. The warnings went unheeded and resulted in my departure from the Board in 2014. Those warnings have now proved to be justified and the BID has lost all control over the website that they built their marketing programme around.
The current Chairman of the BID, Peter Conisbee, has now shed all pretence of looking after the interests of BID members and supported the TIC’s move with this statement.
The move has been welcomed by Peter Conisbee, chairman of the Dartmouth BID: “Today’s news gives certainty to the future of the Dartmouth tourism guide and it puts the town’s leading tourism website in the hands of seasoned experts who will be able to keep the site current and fully up to date with information on what’s going on in and around Dartmouth.”
My question to Peter Conisbee is what does this do for the BID Company’s marketing plans which were built around the TIC website? What happens to the big investment the BID made in this site and what return does the BID receive from its sale? As Chairman of the BID you were elected to look after the interests of Dartmouth BID members. By sending ballot papers to the home address of Dartmouth holiday home owners you have made sure that they can avoid supporting Dartmouth’s economy. They can avoid paying rates by registering for business rates and getting full rate relief, and now they can avoid the BID levy by voting for closure of the BID Company. That is a betrayal of the trust placed in you by BID members.
As a director of Visit South Devon, the TIC and Dartmouth BID Ltd what is the opinion of Nigel Way on this decision? How does this help the BID deliver its objectives? Are you assuming the BID Board will succeed in closing this vital Business Improvement District initiative, voted for by Dartmouth businesses? How will VSD make a profit from the website when the TIC could not? What security do you have that VSD will invest adequate resources in promoting Dartmouth above all other South Devon resorts? And how will VSD manage 2 different websites? How will a company based in Newton Abbot keep up to date with whats going on in Dartmouth?
If the BID Board fail in their quest to close down the BID Company then the BID marketing programme will be decimated by the TIC’s decision, and the new BID management team will be required to start again. This of course could be an opportunity as well as a problem, as the focus could shift to, for instance, the development of a new Dartmouth Guide App, which is a more economic way of promoting businesses in the town.
Now they own Dartmouth’s vital destination website how secure is Visit South Devon as an organisation?
In 2013 South Hams were asked for financial support to keep VSD going and reluctantly decided to provide 2 more years of support, as you can see from this report published on the South Hams District Council website at the time:
Visit South Devon wins backing – with strings
Visit South Devon, the strategic promotions firm that markets the area to the world, has been given match funding by South Hams District Council for a further two years – but with strings attached.
The council’s Executive Committee members narrowly agreed by only a one vote margin on Thursday to a £15,000 a year grant, being matched by Teignbridge District Council, but only after council leader Councillor John Tucker warned the VSD: “This is the last throw of the dice.”
He added: “I am disappointed that we have again been asked for support for Visit South Devon after five years. It was going to be self funding by this time – that was what we had agreed.
“I was sad to see that tourism over this period has shown that Wales has had a record increase in the number of visitors and that South Devon had suffered a decline. South Devon tourism doesn’t seem to be getting the benefit”.
He was concerned that they did not have a “working relationship” with the Tourist Information Centres in the West of the area.
For this reason he proposed the council support VSD for a further two years and successfully defended a later motion to make it just one year from Councillor Simon Wright (defeated four votes to three) who wanted the funding term reduced to one year.
Motion seconder Councillor Rufus Gilbert said that VSD did not seem to be engaging with ASHTIC (Association of South Hams Tourist Information Centres). He said: “I have business interests in tourism, but we have to see that this money is being spent effectively.”
(SHDC June 2013)
So what is the status of Visit South Devon today? can we be sure that our website is in good hands? How will Visit South Devon halt the decline in TIC subscriptions when their own turnover dropped by 18% to under £100k in the year up to 2015? How can they support 2 websites with a salary bill of £37000 (2015 figures)? Will subscribers who are on both sites continue on both? These are reasonable questions that Dartmouth businesses will be asking.
Dartmouth Business News is very concerned that the same people who have delivered such poor results from our investments in the TIC and the BID in the past are now making decisions that will effect the future of Dartmouth as a tourist destination, with no consultation with Business subscribers, Town Council or levy payers.
I make no apology for expressing my concerns as I, and many other people, put a great deal of effort into the creation of the BID opportunity, which was seen as having a real chance of achieving what has not been achieved so far by other organisations in the town. It can still achieve what it set out to do, so I will continue to fight for what I believe is in the best interests of both Dartmouth and its business community.
Dartmouth deserves better!