Visit South Devon has today responded in the Dartmouth Chronicle to the concerns D.B.News have about the future security of the Dartmouth Tourism website. The Chairman of VSD, Stuart Longrigg, wrote a strong defence of the record of VSD and claimed that their years of experience with the New Minds platform means they are well equipped to keep the Discover Dartmouth site up to date and populated with the very latest information on whats going on locally.
Our concern remains the same. As South Hams Council pointed out in June 2013 when they approved a further 2 years of £15,000 support funding for VSD, matching the funding provided by Teignbridge District Council, the activities of VSD have so far not improved the visitor numbers to South Devon during a period when visitors to Wales had improved dramatically. I quote:
“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”.
John Tucker Leader of SHDC June 2013
Our concern has always been that the TIC focuses on statistics about web hits on their site without looking deeper at the results of those hits. The conversion rate for their site is poor and that is why subscribers are deserting them. If they tried to understand that better and responded, the TIC may be able to reverse the decline in subscriber income. D.B.News have offered their help in understanding and solving this problem but the offer has been refused. D.B.News will be keen to hear if conversion rates have improved since 2013.
We also remain concerned that subscribers will be unlikely to subscribe to both the VSD and TIC sites, considering the high cost of subscriptions, and so combined subscription levels might drop. We are interested in the VSD view on this concern
The comments by Mr Longrigg also mention the number of web hits their website is getting, but the quote above shows that these hits do not necessarily result in increased visitor numbers. Those are the statistics we would prefer to see analysed by the TIC and VSD in order to fully understand what they need to do to support increased tourism in South Devon. D.B.News is sure that a website alone cannot improve the situation. Only a comprehensive plan that uses the TIC website as the core of a more complete marketing mix will improve conversion rates and I fear neither organisation has the funds or the will to achieve that.
The Chairman of the TIC also claimed in the article that the TIC gave the BID permission to “resleeve” their website, but at no time had the BID owned the official town tourism site! In fact out of the 3 options the BID was considering to create a website fit for their marketing plans, the TIC members of the BID Board fought very hard to gain the investment in the Discover Dartmouth site, and at no time did the BID Board approve the investment without some form of joint ownership. That was totally against the interests of levy payers, as has now proved to be the case. Several BID Board members fought unsuccessfully against this decision.
The TIC Chairman herself fought very hard to gain the investment, which consisted of £22000 directly in development of the site (including photography), and £58000 on the branding project and railway platform advertising campaign, which was approved by all of the BID Board and was purely aimed at driving traffic to the TIC website. That investment has now been lost by the transfer of ownership of the website with no return for the BID, and the abandonment of a strong branding campaign that would have made a real difference to the image and profile of Dartmouth. It would not be unreasonable for BID levy payers to expect their £22,000 investment to be returned. (probably won’t happen!).
Sadly, although D.B.News share the same objectives as the TIC and VSD, which is an increase in the number of quality visitors to Dartmouth, I suspect our words will be interpreted as an attack on the TIC and VSD.
PS. thank you Linda for your encouraging words!