Castle

Autumn Around Castle Park

I took advantage of the unseasonably warm weather to to take some autumnal photographs in and around castle park. Until the sky did that weird red/beige thing.







Simon Crow

Are we nice in Colchester?

Scott Everest takes another look at Colchester’s tourism and where we might be going wrong?

Are we nice in Colchester?

Make no mistake about it, tourism is at the apex of the hospitality industry. A town’s reputation as a desired destination can be made through all the encounters a tourist or a visitor experiences throughout their stay occasion.

A difficult challenge you may say, as all attractions and associated business have their own way of doing things, especially with regards to customer service.

So why is it important for tourists to have a good experience, or to expand further why is it important when tourists have a bad experience for it to be resolved to their satisfaction?

In 1999 a company called TARP research conducted a study and it stated that only 1 person in every 26 unhappy customers will make a formal complaint about their experience.

The others will simply take their business elsewhere and will not return. But here is the kicker. Each unhappy customer will tell an average of 10 people of the experience who in turn will tell another 5 people.

This means that the 26 complaints will influence 1300 people, (Rises to 1560 if is a formal complaint) to not come and visit Colchester. How much does that small section cost Colchester’s local businesses and attractions?

The silent majority are the scariest type of customer out there, the ones who just go elsewhere.

Customer Complaint

However, there was a second part to the Tarp research which was also very interesting. For every complaint you resolve then 82% of people will return if you resolve the complaint quickly.

It pays to resolve complaints or have a forum to do so. Unfortunately any attraction that does not have this facility runs the risk of the only ‘vented’ outlet being a review site on the Internet.

I guarantee you an internet based negative review will increase that Customer Complaint Iceberg formula exponentially.

To be serious about Customer / Visitors / Tourists you have to provide a facility to gather Customer Feedback, good, neutral or negative in a simple way, as otherwise you will never improve.

A good tool to use would be The Harvard University devised measurement called the Net Promoter Score (NPS) a sliding scale to rate your experience.

Net Promoter

 

A Detractor is someone who has had a negative experience, and the lower the score the less likely they are to recommend. The Passives are always discounted as they have no loyalty either way. Promoters are seen as a ‘Raving Fan’ who sings your praises.

It is said that to be ‘World Class’ you would have a Net Promoter Score of around 50%

Naturally you would need free text to capture customers verbatim, or use a problem tree to ascertain finitely what the problem is.

So to be serious, and to be a standout destination which takes honest unfiltered feedback, you need to be fully open to comments. The worst that can happen is you learn what people really enjoy (and keep doing it) and what people do not like (and fix it).

Thus keeping some reviews from public forums, if you resolve in a timely manner.

All of which is useless unless you know how to be hospitable in the first instance, and know how to successfully resolve complaints.

In 2007 I was lucky to be part of the 2012 Olympic Accommodation Committee, and being one of the chosen Hotel Managers to host dignitaries, staff and competition winners, was a great honour.

However, being an experienced Manager in the hospitality sector I thought that there was nothing I did not know. I have seen lots of things and own many of the t-shirts.

However the 2012 Olympics was known as the ‘Friendly Games’, which surprised the UK if we are to be truly honest with ourselves, as we are known for being quite a reserved bunch.

This was of course down to great leadership, vision and expense, but at the core of everything was something quite wonderful.

Not a lot of people may know about the mandatory training that we all had to undertake and in the lead up did not see the value, however what happened next blew me away.

The program we went on was called ‘World Host’ a specially developed program that was first used at the Winter Olympics and used to train and inspire the ‘Hosts’ on how to manage a large event and give excellent and memorable customer service.

Host

This profoundly changed the way I managed, and the core principles stuck with me on how I managed Customer Service from that point forward.

This was also used for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and will be used for the upcoming Euro 2016 Football Championship and the Rio Olympics 2016.

So Colchester, for an investment of £80 per person for a World Host one day Course for people who work directly in tourism is a worthwhile investment.

Is this aspirational enough for us to take this seriously for Colchester?

To finish, let me use this hypothetical formula;

26 People have a negative experience as a Tourist in Colchester each week

10 People each hear about that experience

5 people additionally from the 10 people also learn about that experience

1300 people could each week receive negative reviews about Colchester

£25 is the average spend per visitor

£32,500 is lost in potential sales per week

So to calculate for the year would equate to £1,690,00 in lost potential sales

The scarier figure is that is 67,600 people will have had a negative view of Colchester last year, and every year. That is nearly 1/3 of the population of Colchester Borough.

Hang on a minute, what if that hypothetical figure of tourists having a negative experience in Colchester is more than 26 people per week?

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Government Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

It is not easy to be a tourist in Colchester

It is not easy to be a tourist in our Town, in fact it initially requires a huge leap of faith to come to visit in the first instance, and even more to actually get into the town centre.

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Government Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Everest

Colchester: A Vision (Part 2)

Part two of Scott Everest’s look at what could be done to help Colchester achieve its tourism potential.

CastleReduced1

This is the second part to my blog about Tourism in Colchester and was overwhelmed by the reaction and support.

It was heart-warming to see action being taken, with local political manifestos highlighting heritage and the importance of tourism, and the announcement of investment in the Roman Chariot Track.

Everyone has great ideas and all needs to be captured in a professional Destination Marketing Program (DMP) which is both inclusive and apolitical.

To give you an example and benefits of what a vibrant DMP can do we will do a case study on our town’s Unique Selling Point (USP) Colchester Castle.

We need to begin by choosing a medium to measure and for this purpose will use TripAdvisor as it captures sentiment acutely. It also gives us numbers of votes which we can benchmark against each other.

The next steps are to create a list of comparative USP’s and by type (Castles) from other Towns.

The following Castles are as follows;

Colchester Castle, Dover Castle, Leeds Castle, Hever Castle, Warwick Castle, Skipton Castle, Tintagel Castle & Rochester Castle

The first thing we want to look at is ratings per Castle. This is the volume of people who chose to rate the castle regardless of sentiment of experience.

Colchester Tourism

As you can see Colchester Castle has had the lowest engagement and ratings of all the Castles in our Comparative Set.

This would suggest that the majority of visitors are local or school groups.

The next part of this case study is to look at sentiment, how people felt about the experience. In my industry the focus is to get to 4.5 stars, and you then would be rewarded as such on the website with a certificate of excellence which you can display in the premises.

There is a value of revenue attached to this and in the hotel industry it is worth a minimum 5% extra on rate alone.

Colchester Tourism

It is interesting that Colchester Castle only reached 4 stars and missed out on achieving a certificate of excellence. So let us get a snapshot of what visitors are saying.

3

It is clear that no concession for OAPs is a standout issue with price, and reading through the negative verbatim it seems that there is an inclusivity issue.

To give a perspective of balance there are some excellent reviews on the site, the point being that versus any other Castle the level of physical reviews are low.

However the real issue is potential, and want to look at what Colchester could be so will remove the rest of the comparative set and just rank against Leeds Castle.

In 2010 there were 560,000 people who visited Leeds Castle compared with 110,000 from Colchester Castle. This is a huge difference.

Let us be realistic and state that Colchester was to achieve 200,000 visitor numbers, how much would the local economy would have benefited with 90,000 extra visitors.

A look at what one attraction could bring into the community with additional focus of a DMP.

Colchester Castle £
Extra Visitor Numbers per annum 90,000
Average Entrance Cost SPH

(Based on 2 Adult & 2 Child)

6.175
Gifts SPH

(Based on Association of independent Museums average spend)

1.50
Sustenance SPH

(Based on average cost of sandwich v’s families who bring own lunch)

2.31
Parking SPH

(Based on 2 adult & 2 Child on £3.50 per day parking)

0.875
977,400

If you could imagine scaling this up for all the attractions in Colchester then you can see the potential. In essence one attraction alone would bring in close to additional £1 million in revenue alone per annum.

Having a Destination Marketing Plan that everyone is committed to would make a huge difference.

To look at a blue sky scenario, if Colchester Castle reached the same visitor numbers as Leeds Castle, the additional revenue would be worth £4,887,000 per annum.

I would even be so brave to say that Colchester would sell an additional £1 million in ice cream alone in the Summer Months.

If ⅓ of these extra visitors came by train then Greater Abellio would make an additional £13,550,000 in revenue per year.

It is in everyone’s interests for this to happen.

So the next steps would be to take the Destination Marketing Plan seriously, invest in its production and make it apolitical with the development of Colchester in mind.

As someone wise once said ‘A goal without a plan, is just a dream’

Dare we dream Colchester? I plan on it…

Scott Everest works as Special Projects Manager for a European based Hotel Group. His experience includes working for Pontins Holidays, CentreParcs, Disneyland Paris and Travelodge in various senior management positions across the UK. He has also attended committee meetings and briefings for the 2012 Olympic committee, and Goverment Department for Culture and Sport for hospitality representing the budget hotel chains. He has also consulted for Norfolk County Council and Blackpool Fylde Council in aspects of Leisure and inbound Tourism.

Scott Everest

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott Everest

Parklife

Dragon Colchester Castle

When I was a teenager I lived in Riverside Estate, with Castle Park right on my doorstep, so I have many memories of playing football in the lower park, being chased on our bikes along the riverside path on our way home from school by the park keeper in his little Bedford van  – Colchester wasn’t so cycling friendly then and riding a bike in the park was forbidden – not forgetting sledging down the hill from the upper to lower park and trying to avoid a collision with the Roman wall at the bottom. I think maybe that familiarity at the time prevented me from appreciating what an amazing asset the park is to Colchester, and it is only since returning to live in the town after nearly twenty years spent in Wivenhoe, and living almost by its gates once again, that I truly understand the important role Castle Park plays in the town.

Park Smaller

Park

Over the past few months since my return I have really grown to love this wonderful green space that begins right in the heart of our town centre, behind the magnificent gates by the war memorial in Cowdray Crescent where the High Street meets East Hill, greeting us with its ornamental gardens, before sweeping down the hill to the Roman wall, then the wonderful green space beyond it that stretches along the river, with further grassy areas beyond the gates creating a swathe of green almost from East Mill, past Riverside Estate and Leisure World, taking in the cricket ground then onwards almost to North Station Road.

Castle Tower Reduced

Band

The jewel in the park’s crown is of course Colchester Castle. Built on the orders of William the Conqueror, the castle is the largest Norman Keep in Britain, and was the blueprint for its smaller relative, the Tower of London. The sheer size of the castle always amazes me, as does the thought that it stands on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Claudius which was built by the Romans after they invaded 2000 years ago and made Colchester the country’s original capital. What a breathtaking sight that building must have been! And these days there is something special about seeing people sitting on the grass, enjoying the sun, just feet away from those castle walls that have stood there for nearly 1000 years.

Weir Reduced 1

Canoes

 

Weir

Living so close to the park these past few months, since the weather has become warmer it’s been a pleasure to take the longer walk home from town via the park after a Saturday afternoon lunch or shopping trip, with the occasional Sunday afternoon walk along the river thrown in. And in recent weeks there always seems to be something going on, whether it’s a brass band providing free entertainment in the bandstand, or the Food and Drink Festival bringing locals and other people into the park from the surrounding areas. And of course we still have the Free Festival to come, which this year we are promised is to be held over two days. But for me the park has really come into its own this past week since the giant television screen has been stalled for the duration of Wimbledon. What a wonderful idea this has been. Watching Wimbledon for free while sitting on the hill in the sun, armed with a picnic, a bottle of wine or couple of beers. Although I’m sure that hill has got steeper as I’ve got older! On days when I’ve been working from home it’s been hard to resist the temptation to slip off for an hour or so to watch the tennis with a cold drink. And, in even better news, Illuminate Design, who provided and installed the screen, are hoping to put on Colchester’s very own Winter Wonderland over the Christmas period to rival the one in London’s Hyde Park, complete with, yes they are serious… an ice skating rink. Fingers crossed they get the green light for this ambitious event which will bring people to the town from far and wide, many of whom will also spend money in the town’s shops, restaurant and pubs, putting money into our local economy.

Drink

Gym Reduced

 

Burgers Reduced

Fence

Ducks

As the weeks go by I find I love Castle Park more and more. New York’s Central Park may be the most famous public park in the World, but it’s got nothing on Colchester’s Castle Park.

Simon
 Simon Crow
Simon runs Media48 sponsors of Colchester 101