Who are Visit County Durham?
Visit County Durham is the Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for Durham. Durham is a county and city in North East England, three hours by train from London, approximately two hours from Edinburgh and located south of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. A significant number of visitors to this destination currently travel from within the North East, followed by North West and Yorkshire regions, and then further afield.
Visit County Durham are core funded by Durham County Council and have now shifted to a partnership model, working more closely with the private sector. Visit County Durham are not required to be entirely self-sustaining but in this political environment they had to seek income from elsewhere to achieve their goals. T-Stats has now formed part of their member benefits, including the basis for a quarterly visitor economy review they distribute to their partners.
Tourism continues to be an important sector for growth in Durham, recognised by the County Council through its regeneration statement and in a range of frameworks and strategies concerned with economic development and growth. Importantly, the county retains a Destination Management Organisation dedicated to growing the volume and value of the visitor economy, supported by the local authority Durham County Council, as well as a significant number of visitor economy partners and tourism businesses.
By 2020, the visitor economy is expected to account for 17% of the county’s economy. This will represent an increase of £111.4 million from £752 million (2014) to £863.4 million in 2020. The objective of Visit County Durham is to grow the visitor economy. They perform the roles of destination management, destination marketing and place marketing.
“Basing decisions on evidence: Durham ensures that it has robust and relevant market intelligence based on good quality and timely research so that decisions by all stakeholders in the county’s visitor economy are based on evidence”
Durham Tourism Management Plan 2016-2020
How do Visit County Durham use T-Stats?
Visit County Durham have used T-Stats since 2012. Initially they joined forces with NewcastleGateshead Initiative and formed part of the NGI T-Stats system, but recently shifted to the English Heritage Cities T-Stats group to enable them to benchmark against the similar UK destinations, whilst having their own database too.
Visit County Durham measure their sector on a monthly basis. These are some of the data they input into their T-Stats system:
- Attraction visitor numbers
- Accommodation rooms sold and revenue
- Weather – rainfall, sunshine, temperature
- UK national and regional economic measures
- International Passenger Survey
- Great Britain Day Visitor Survey
- Great Britain Tourism Survey
- Foreign exchange rates
“You can look outside and say ‘it’s quite busy’, but there is no evidence to prove it. We use T-Stats and have evidence”
Lucy Wearne, Senior Executive – Development, Visit County Durham
Insight from Lucy Wearne, Senior Executive – Development, Visit Country Durham
The Visit County Durham team are increasingly asked about the availability of market research, whether from their management team, County Council corporate directors, developers, events companies and so on. T-Stats is used regularly across their teams to produce supportive statistics for different stakeholders. The occupancy data they build through T-Stats also feeds into their STEAM model so it is important to get the most out of it.
Which department or roles within your organisation use or benefit from T-Stats?
T-Stats is used all across County Durham but it sits within Visit County Durham’s Product Development team. This is situated within the regeneration and economic development directive so T-Stats helps to provide lots of information for them as well.
Product development: if there is an investment enquiry we might lay occupancy and attractions data on top of each other to provide baseline data for forecasting. We also use it a lot to offer evidence informing when to best run events in the year.
Marketing: they look at the trends and see what impact their marketing campaigns may have had in certain areas of the county.
The private sector benefit from the Durham T-Stats system in a number of ways. For example, Visit County Durham produce a quarterly visitor economy fact sheet for their partners.
What are the top 3 benefits of using T-Stats?
- Provides evidence bases which outline the scope, scale and value of the visitor economy and guide strategic decisions of Visit County Durham and their industry partners
- Ease of use – simple for the tourism businesses and for us
- The ability to count the intangible e.g. providing robust, actual data on occupancy for a potential hotel developer
What is your favourite function of T-Stats?
I use ‘Export Data’ a lot and find it the most useful way to analyse data. I mainly use accommodation occupancy and visitor attraction data, but like to mix it all up. If market intelligence is in isolation I feel it doesn’t mean much and so this enables us to look at the trends over a few years. If you just look at the year before it could have been a really good or bad year and therefore misleading.
Give us a good example of how T-Stats has helped you
Yesterday I was asked to provide some information about occupancy over a three-month period from this summer to last summer. I would have assumed July would have been better than September but there was only 0.26% in it. I can then go to the events sector and explain that the summer period is lengthening and it feels good going to businesses with actual data now rather than assumptions.
How does T-Stats compare to other systems available to destinations?
It is a facility used by a range of destinations across the UK so ensures we can provide robust data, that is credible.
What advice can you give to those thinking about investing in T-Stats?
T-Stats provides us with robust local data.
What are the biggest challenges for Destination Management Organisations right now?
- Future funding uncertainty
- Brexit and the value of the GBP
- Digital developments such as Google Places and Destinations
What opportunities do you envisage for DMOs in 2017?
Becoming less dependent on the public funding by generating new income from our partnership model, more and stronger partnerships working across boundaries and sectors to facilitate marketing, development and change.
And finally… solving 2017 challenges with T-Stats?
T-Stats provides the evidence we need to demonstrate the importance and value of the sector to funders, partners and stakeholders.
If you would also like to join Visit County Durham as a leader amongst destination managers who are helping more places and businesses make well-informed decisions, simply contact us today.