Tourism

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 3)

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

I would like to thank you all for the feedback from the last blog. It is good to see so many people interested in tourism and the potential of Colchester.

In part 3 it would be prudent to see what would happen if we are on the right track, the tipping point to success.

This is obvious as we would start to see street vendors.

1

There is nothing in this world smarter than those who can see an opportunity, a good retailer can sniff out an upturn in trade and footfall and take full advantage.

You may gasp in horror as people set up mobile stands to capture tourists in the heaviest footfall sites and it would be viewed by many as both anti-social and akin to begging.

Let me tell you how they do it.

This is taken from a true story from a vendor outside York Minster, whom I interviewed over 15 years ago.

A gentleman named Abid was a refugee who escaped from Afghanistan in the late 1990’s due to being persecuted for being a Christian Convert.

His Father was educated in York University in the 1960’s and upon returning liberated in mind he preached about the tolerance in Britain. In there house pride of place was a Snow Globe and inside was the impressive York Minster.

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Abid loved the snow globe and to him represented a dream to live and prosper in Britain.

To cut a long story short he come to England and headed to the place of his dreams, York.

He found it difficult as first, as anyone would and found himself in a situation of Poverty and living hand to mouth.

Everyday he would visit York Minster, pray inside and just spend hours looking at its splendour. He observed that York was developing and more and more people were visiting.

The boardwalk was very clear and he noticed that not many people were taking gifts home and he wanted everyone to have the same experience as him with a souvenir to cherish.

He spent the next few weeks with blocks of wood that were discarded from a local shop that was being fitted and proceeded to whittle down with a pen knife a 3D image of York Minster.

This took many attempts but slowly and surely he created something that resembled York Minster.

His next step was to create a mould, so he melted down plastic and wrapped around his effigy. This took many attempts until he managed to get a workable mould.

Then with a mixture of mud, old newspapers and boiled sugar water he made a paste and poured into his mould. This with a lot of trial and error ended being successful.

Obviously the item needed to be decorated. He liberated an old tin of emulsion that had around 2 inches of old paint inside, he added water stirred and painted 36 freshly dried casts of York Minster.

The final decoration of all the colours and was a mixture of puddle water, blood, Argos pen ink and sealed with clear nail varnish.

That very next morning Abid with his bed blanket spread outside the thoroughfare of York Minster sold 17 York Minster Souvenirs at £3.00 each.

A business was born, tourists had a souvenir from their trip and Abid was part of what we call an innovator of Tourism based retail.

York is a great example of what Colchester can be and we are on a journey to make this happen.

Abid is what you call an innovator or better term for it is a lone nut. He was out there by himself day after day.

Then people started to notice (early adopters) other likewise minded individuals all started to create and sell there souvenirs all across York.

3

You cannot underestimate the power of souvenirs it is a physical reminder of a place visited that when you see it brings back the experience and memory. You purchase for friends and family who also become intrigued to visit the place from where it came.

It took a while but the local shops and the attractions saw an opportunity and became the early majority.

Then everybody saw the opportunity, to get the tourists into the shops they had to offer the same as everyone else. I took a long while but they made it in the end but they were the late majority.

Then there are the laggards or as I like to call them, CAVE dwellers (Citizens Against Virtually Everything) these are the people who said it would never work and created a lot of barriers with some of them in positions of power and influence.

There are lessons to be learnt but we are lucky in Colchester that everyone wants the same thing.

So when you see someone outside Colchester Castle selling a home made souvenir then it is safe to say we are doing something right.

Do not move him on, as I want his story and my picture taken with him as he is an innovator and we need more of them in our town.

As for Abid, it seems he never forgot our meeting and he found me by chance on Facebook in 2005, we chatted and he was still in York but was thinking about moving to London.

I had just started a job as a Hotel Manager in Covent Garden and without hesitation offer him a position to start immediately.

On his first day of work I gave him a snow globe of Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

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I really want to buy my daughter a snow globe of Colchester as to me it’s a symbolic of my beliefs around tourism.

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

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.

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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

Colchester: A Vision

Colchester is steeped in a rich history that many towns would be envious of, yet somehow we don’t seem to fulfil our potential and become the tourist destination we could be. Scott Everest takes a look at what could be done to change that and really put this town of ours on the map.

What is wrong with Colchester?

On the face of it nothing, there are only a handful of places in the United Kingdom that can boast the incredible heritage that our fair town has in abundance.

It has been noted that 42 million people visited the county of Essex in 2015.

Colchester Zoo does not subscribe to any of the industry measurements so is hard to understand its performance, however all other attractions in Colchester are down 11% on average (from the Government’s Case Tourism Data) with only Colchester Castle showing an upturn in visitors bucking the trend.
Colchester Castle

It is an assumption, but with Tourism we seem to be in regression.

There is £3 billion on the table from inbound tourism to the UK, but even with one of the most unique heritage portfolios in the region Colchester does not seem to have any advantage.

Meanwhile, in the Cotswolds, 50,000 Japanese Tourists visit each year and spend £1.5 million in the local economy. The stay occasion was just to take pictures of the picturesque local villages. It is estimated that in 5 years’ time Chinese tourism will match that figure, producing a combined Asian input of £5 million into the local economy per annum.

Imagine what could happen if they knew what we have to offer. Just tapping into this tiny part of the market, the local economy would start to thrive.

So how could we enhance our heritage?

The Roman Chariot Track is very unique and its restoration is paramount. This, along with creating a living village experience with Roman Britain and the Iceni Tribe, would make Colchester an educational destination during the off peak seasons.

Chariot Racing

We also need to exploit the Witchfinder General – Mathew Hopkins’ infamy with Colchester Castle. York Dungeons is success with Dick Turpin shows there is potential locally. A purpose built experience could put Colchester on the leaflet with one of the most visited attractions in London, the London Dungeons.

A purpose built visitor centre in the same vein as the Jorvik Centre in York would be able to showcase our heritage from the Parliamentarians vs Roundheads during the English Civil War, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Humpty Dumpty, to the history of the British Army in the Town.

Imagine thinking even bigger, Colchester could be a destination instead of just a day trip with Constable Country on our doorstep.

Willy Lotts Cottage

The current council are starting to do a great job in lighting up our heritage, however that light needs to be shone brightly outwards to attract more visitors to our historic town.

So what must be done?

The job of promoting Colchester is simple and is not the problem. Any experienced Tourism specialist will do a great job with the correct support, providing there is no local political interference.

However, let us not be naïve with our ‘Field of Dreams’ ethos. The infrastructure needs to be in place so all visitors can have a positive experience. This is where Colchester Borough Council should focus.

The Park and Ride is actually perfect for local inbound visitors, however coach parties would need consideration without putting too much stress on local routes. (If only we had the old Bus Station)

So in summary we have something called ‘Potential’ which is nothing if we not do anything with 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