Berwick upon Tweed Tourism Conference

Berwick upon Tweed Tourism Conference 2020

The Berwick upon Tweed Tourism Conference and Tourism Fair was held in the Guildhall on the 10th March 2020. The Conference received a series of presentations intended to share the tourism development work of the Project and partners and look at the further development of the towns visitor ‘offer’. The Tourism Fair was attended by businesses and organisations showcasing local products and services.

Berwick Community Trust CEO Julien Lake said:

‘Timing is everything.  The Tourism Conference became one of the last tourism events to be held in Northumberland before the current ban on gatherings came into force. To enable the Conference to go ahead we deployed all appropriate health and safety measures, at that time, but clearly some people felt unable to come along and attendance was down. This is why we have created a ‘virtual’ Conference to ensure access to the information shared at the event.

Over the past year we have become better informed in regard to Berwick’s tourism economy, the needs and wants of our visitors and developing visitor trends which will help us develop a stronger visitor ‘offer’ to realise the benefits of this important sector of the towns economy.  We knew that supporting the towns tourism sector was important. What we could not anticipate is how important the work of the Project and partners would become to the recovery and re-establishment of the towns visitor economy as we look to emerge from the covid 19 crisis.

The tourism development work undertaken has created a momentum of growth for the sector. A refreshed marketing and promotion campaign for the town has been underpinned by the place-branding work and will be driven by the new Website supported by both refreshed and new visitor products and services. Investment, with the new Premier Inn and at the Port of Berwick will help to attract new visitors to the town.

Berwick is now in a stronger position as we look to emerge from the current crisis and respond to the both the challenges and opportunities that will create within, what will be, a highly competitive marketplace. The visitor ‘offer’ developed has been done so in response to our current and future visitor markets and we need to be conscious of any new trends and megatrends as we evolve the towns ‘offer’. Delivering an ‘authentic’ visitor experience will give a focus to the towns heritage, environment, arts and culture and food offer. The interpretation and promotion of some of these elements will help drive the sectors recovery, other planned initiatives, currently on hold, will be re-tasked to contribute to re-establish the towns renewed visitor ‘offer’.

I have had some time to reflect on the presentations at the Conference and consider both the recovery of the local tourism sector and the sustainability of the visitor offer. The commitment of our local partners and the momentum established will create a platform for economic recovery. We should also take account of known visitor Megatrends, demands from visitors which will shape the future tourism economy and must be addressed for Berwick to deliver a vibrant and sustainable visitor ‘offer’. In that regard I have tasked the Welcome Visitor Project Staff to provide some resources to help the local tourism sector address ‘sustainable tourism’ development in order to gain market advantage from this trend and help to secure a more sustainable and resilient visitor ‘offer’ and tourism business base’.

We have uploaded some of the speaker presentations from the day should you wish to look at them, just click on the link to download each presentation.  We will upload a brief description of what the slides mean shortly.

Welcome Visitor Project – Andy Ashcroft

Tourism is a competitive business. ‘Winning’ visitors to Berwick involves the collective effort of a range of businesses, from accommodation and attraction providers to food and drink outlets, and organisations working to maintain and promote specific aspects of the towns visitor ‘offer’ and those organisations developing and promoting local tourism as a key economic driver for the town’s economy.

Once we accept that we are in competition we have to understand how we are performing. That’s why the Project has bought the STEAM model which helps us establish the economic value of tourism in Berwick and, because it is an industry standard format, helps us to benchmark performance against other areas with STEAM data. Because of the data ‘crunching’ involved the available data is typically a year behind, so the data we acquired last year is for 2018. Whilst that is before the Project started it helps set a baseline for an analysis of the impacts of local tourism developments.

The 2018 ‘snapshot’ tells us that tourism contributed over £53 Million to the local economy and supported 666 local jobs. The local trend, over the previous two years, shows that little has changed with visitor numbers, visitor expenditure and tourism jobs largely remaining at the same level.

When we start to consider ‘performance’ we can measure this against Northumberland STEAM data, from Northumberland Tourism. What is clear from considering the County’s tourism performance data is that Berwick, in 2018, was underperforming relative to the County and was not capitalising on the success of Northumberland as a tourism destination.  

There are two key issues for consideration in addressing this ‘performance’ challenge and making sure that Berwick gains the maximum benefit from the visitor and tourism economy. Firstly, Berwick is a part of the Northumberland visitor ‘offer’. We need to work more closely with the County Destination Management Organisation to develop and promote local visitor products and services which will tap into this ‘latent’ visitor market and draw more visitors into Berwick. That ‘uplift’ in visitor numbers can be achieved because we are similar to Northumberland so that the visitor offer is consistent. The second issue relates to the fact that Berwick is also independent and different. The distribution of all visitor numbers over the season is largely the same pattern in Berwick as in Northumberland. In part, that reflects the ‘outdoor’ coastal and rural offer to visitors but restricts the market to visitors who need ‘good weather’, as much as can be planned, to enjoy their holiday. This focus inevitably creates a ‘shoulder season’ where visitor numbers are lower relative to the summer months but the tourism sector is running at full capacity to serve the marketplace. In Berwick, in 2018, that resulted in an estimated £13 Million productivity gap. Whilst the ‘shoulder season’ is not a Berwick specific issue the town is well placed to address the challenge. More needs to be made of the town’s built, ‘weatherproof’, assets and tourism infrastructure with built space being used more creatively to service diverse visitor interests. New festivals and events, to supplement the successful Autumn Festivals programme, can play a key role in attracting both new and returning visitors during the quieter times of the visitor season. Heritage, Arts & Culture and Food & Drink can be developed to build this market which will be, economically, valuable where joint initiatives with accommodation providers secure ‘staying visitors’ for the town.

From the Projects point of view, we have been delighted at the response from a range of local organisations who have helped to develop new visitor products and services to strengthen the town’s visitor ‘offer’. We have been mindful of current and developing visitor trends and have sought to address these in the way the Berwick’s tourism assets are promoted to visitors.  Now, more than ever and given the current situation, we have to shape the further development of the town’s visitor ‘offer’ to our visitors wants and needs both short term and for the future. Only by addressing the requirements of the visitor marketplace can we improve our competitiveness and begin to capitalise on the opportunities for this key sector of the Berwick economy.   

Northumberland Tourism – Chris Brown

NNTA – Harvest Harris Jones

Strategic Tourism Project Manager –Neil Carney

Berwick Chamber of Trade – Stephen Scott

Visit Berwick/Berwick upon Tweed Ambassadors – Jenna Shields

Visit Berwick is the visitor facing website which encourages visitors to Berwick-upon-Tweed and highlight the offer, which will extend visitor stays.  The website has a brand new range of supporting materials and tools to help tourism businesses showcase the offer and enhance the visitor experience.  Newsletter sign up, this is another new feature for the 2020 visitor season. This is for visitors to keep up to date with news, updates and events.  The new Visit Berwick Leaflet, that is available for business to stock, with a branded leaflet holder, and window stickers, these are all free. recently collaborated with Northumberland Tourism and were a lead partner in the Autumn/ Winter Campaign. This ran from October 2019 – February 2020 and the theme were ‘The best place to visit day and night’ You can see the results in the slides.   Also in 2019 we collaborated with two travel bloggers, to highlight the vast range of activities available in Berwick-upon-Tweed and the diverse travel market that we can cater for.  You can read the blogs here:

2020 has seen the launch of some exciting new trails and walks in Berwick-upon-Tweed, from Nature to history to food. There’s something for everyone, not forgetting the existing Lowry Trail.

Tweed and Coast Nature Trail –

Explore Berwick-upon-Tweed – Available from Tourist Information.

Barleycorn Heritage food trail –

Berwick’s Fishy Heritage Trail –

‘Port of Berwick Developments’ – Scott Ferguson (Berwick Harbourmaster)

I would like to give you a short talk and update on the exciting developments we have going on at the port and how we see the port growing in the next few years, both as an individual entity and as a part of a push by several local groups to realise the potential of Berwick as the top tourist and visitor destination we know it deserves to be. Berwick and the surrounding area has so much unrealised potential and it is wonderful to at last see people banding together to bring life to our town.
Firstly, as many of you will no doubt have seen (or perhaps heard!) we have a new jetty being built. Though a jetty is a more practical need rather than something which is going to bring visitors to the town, it is essential to the continued functioning of the port. Without the new jetty the port would have closed, so we are very grateful for the funding we received to complete the job.
However, our main focus is now turning to other developments within the port, putting plans in place to encourage visitors to come here, both in terms of leisure and sailing craft, and in trying to encourage cruise vessels to come to Berwick.
Firstly, we have our new pontoon within the dock, a place of safe berthing for leisure vessels in a port that still handles commercial shipping. This pontoon can be used both by sailing vessels and yachts and of course by cruise tender vessels.
The role the new pontoon has played in encouraging yachts to visit the town has already been significant, yet it’s potential will only perhaps be truly seen during the 2020 summer season. Berwick as a port only used to see around ten yachts visit the port at the absolute most, yet in 2019 with the new pontoon available sixty yachts and sailing vessels visited over the last three months of the summer. This was entirely through word of mouth alone, with minimal advertising. We are now speaking with various yacht publications to advertise the port, and we also have a new cruise and sail website about to be launched in the near future. We are confident that these steps, with continued word of mouth from yacht enthusiasts who visit, will ensure that the number of yachts visiting our town will rise this year from the usual ten to around 150 at the very least. Whilst these vessels only have a crew of two or three people they do tend to stay in port for a few days and so do spend time and dare I say it money in the town.
Of course we want people visiting the town to have a good first impression, and once they have sailed up the Tweed taking in the gorgeous views of the town, we want to provide a comfortable and safe landing area. On this basis, we are going to knock down the shed that currently sits next to the pontoon and resurface the area around it so that people can come ashore safely and get a good view of the surrounding area. We are also looking to provide parking bays in this area. These bays are going to be there to take any cruise ship visitors on excursions in the area, but they can potentially serve a double purpose. As you are no doubt aware, Berwick has a dire need of coach parking in the town, and we have had talks with Northumberland County Council about using this area of the port as a coach park so that visitors can be dropped off in the town. Since we are only a 5 minute scenic walk to and from the town centre, we feel that this may be an ideal solution to suit all parties, and since we can be ready to provide this service in early summer, we hope an agreement with NCC can be reached.
As I just said, however, work to the area surrounding the pontoon is primarily to facilitate landing cruise passengers, and we are working hard to encourage cruise lines to see Berwick as an ideal stopping point. We have been in contact with many cruise lines, and we have been visited by representatives of the excursion companies that work with cruise lines to provide itineraries for visits to Berwick and the surrounding area. They have been very impressed and perhaps a little surprised by what Berwick has to offer and they are working with cruise lines to try to fit Berwick into their schedules.
The main advantage we have over bigger ports to the north and south of us is our river, and the fact that cruise vessels will be able to launch zodiacs and kayaks into the river. This obviously cannot be done in the busier shipping lanes of the bigger ports, so we may be able to attract cruise lines with a younger and more active clientele. We are working with the Welcome Berwick Visitor project and others to promote activities and tours within the town, and of course as I already mentioned some will leave on excursions to visit other attractions in the area. Many of these visitors will visit the town itself when they return from their half day excursions.
We do have one visitor already confirmed. M.v. ‘Serenissima’ from the Noble Caledonia company, will visit us in August 2021. We are of course very excited by this and although it does seem to be some time away, cruise lines do have their itineraries set a couple of years in advance, so to have a vessel ‘on the board’ as they say, is a massive step. One thing we have been told by everyone working with the cruise industry is that the biggest factor in gaining visiting vessels is word of mouth, so if we and everyone involved with promoting the town can make this visit by the ‘Serenissima’ a success, then more vessels will follow.
There is much work to do to ensure that the port is ready to provide a landing base for the influx of visitors we are all hoping for to our beautiful town, but we do feel we are heading in the right direction.

As Berwick enters a new, exciting phase of tourism development, we held a Tourism Conference on the 8th of April for the launch event of the Berwick Ambassador’s Scheme, a key tourism enterprise created as part of the Welcome Visitor Project.

The Welcome Visitor Project is working to develop Berwick’s potential as a Visitor Destination through a series of events and initiatives, designed to maximise visitor spend by capitalising on every opportunity to increase visitor footfall, encourage longer stays and repeat visits, enhance visitor experiences and to extend the current visitor season, ultimately resulting in increased commercial successes for local businesses and positive brand development for the town.

During the conference there was an opportunity to hear more about the Welcome Visitor Project and discover how you can become involved to develop your business. There was also a review of the 2018 visitor season in Berwick & Northumberland, an insight into future tourism trends, plus the chance to hear about Berwick’s new and emerging visitor attractions for the 2019 season