Saturday, 16 December 2017

Is the Visit Wales marketing strategy actually working?

The indications are that in spite of all the uncertainties and hardships faced by the nation at the moment -- caused mostly by this obscenity called Brexit -- there has been a slight increase in tourism numbers and tourism spending in Wales in 2017 as against 2016.  Some of the info is here:

Naturally enough, Visit Wales will insist that this rise is all down to the wonderful success of its marketing campaigns, but the truth is more difficult to discern. Has Wales done better, or worse, than Scotland, England and Northern Ireland?  To what extend is the gradual upward trend the result of a UK-wide increase in tourism, related to global or international trends, exchange rates and changing holiday preferences?  Would the Welsh tourist industry be doing better, or worse, if Visit Wales did not exist?  I don't want to be critical here, since we all accept that we need a tourism promotion authority, and it needs to be as innovative as possible to succeed in a highly competitive global market-place.  But we do need, as taxpayers, to scrutinise what is going on.........

So we have a new Welsh dragon, a new graphic typeface, and many new activities and marketing stunts associated with the "EPIC" campaign and the themed years, including the Year of Legends this year.  A lot of people have put in a great deal of hard work to get these initiatives moving, and all credit to them.  But could their work have had a sharper and more unique focus, and might it have been more effective if it had a clearer narrative and a more closely defined "sense of place"?

In answer to that question, I have been trying for many months now -- without success -- to find out what the Welsh narrative may be, underpinning the highly visible marketing campaigns which attract the attention of the media.

I have to conclude that this is something that Visit Wales would prefer not to think about.......


The same problem occurs when we try to identify what the "sense of place" might be that answers the question "WHAT are the unique features of the Welsh landscape that make it a desirable holiday location?" 

If we examine the overarching Visit Wales promotional strategy we get rather a shock, because there is nothing in it that demonstrates a strong sense of place or a real sense of a unique history.  

Let's take the form of words used in the glossy Visit Wales marketing materials over the past 12 months.  Just for fun, I have substituted  “Sweden” instead of Wales in the “brand strategy” which we all know and love. The "marketing text" is unchanged.   Here we go:

Grannskapet och Världen. Sweden in the World.

Sweden belives in the balance between local and global – an approach rooted in our communities, shaped by our landscape and with real social purpose (our ‘Grannskap’), whilst being purposely outward looking, open to new ideas and opportunities – and ready to compete on a global platform (the ‘Värld’).
The best of both worlds.

These are our values:

Sweden is the real deal. Open, honest – our country is built on the foundations of a proud history and heritage, and shaped by a bold and beautiful landscape. We care deeply for community, culture and ‘kommun’ (one’s square mile) and want to lead the world in protecting them. Because these resources power us: green growth, global creative exports, adventure attractions, quality local produce. Our authenticity is the key to our future.

Creativity is at the heart of our nation. Our rich and enduring culture is thriving: in music, literature, art, film, television and theatre. But it’s much more than that. Everywhere you look in Sweden, there are bright new ideas being put into action. It’s happening in design studios and quarry mines, factories and laboratories across the country. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit in the air. We’re not just dreaming big, we’re making it happen.

A new Sweden is emerging. Inspired by our past but looking towards the future with responsibility, and creativity. Our landscapes are alive with nature and adventure. Our culture is alive with imagination. Our communities are alive with opportunity and real innovation. A new generation is investing in a bright and sustainable future, driven by talent and skill. Full of life.

See what I mean?  These are fine words that could have come straight out of a marketing textbook. But virtually every word of the strategy could be used for virtually any country on the planet. 

So what is different and special about Wales?   If I was a prospective tourist, I think I might wonder whether there is anything special at all………. and maybe go somewhere else instead.

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