'Big beast' of a website prepares for massive influx of tourists to Lincolnshire
It's been described as a 'big beast' and promises to attract new high spenders to the county as we begin the journey out of lockdown.
The new Visit Lincolnshire website is part of a £500,000 investment in tourism by Lincolnshire County Council, designed to ensure that not only do tourists return on April 12, they stay longer, keep coming back and have the tools to make the most of their time here.
Walkers and cyclists as well as families heading for the coast are all welcome, they say, and the new website will show them why Lincolnshire is as competitive as any market leaders such as Yorkshire.
Since 2009 the value of the visitor economy in East Lindsey alone has increased from £438m to £699m - but with Europe already offering cheap deals, Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) recognised the need to act quickly.
The county's tourism leaders say there is no doubt, following the scenes from last year of packed beaches when restrictions were eased, that when holiday accommodation and attractions re-open, tourist destinations will be busy.
However, it is not just enough to be open for business, says Coun Colin Davie, Lincolnshire County Council (LCC) executive councillor for economy and place, speaking after the launch of the website.
"There is no doubt there will be a massive influx of visitors when lockdown is eased," he said. "The vision is for Lincolnshire to attract high spend tourists, but these new visitors will be more discerning.
"They will not tolerate poor service and amenities.
"Yes, people will come when restrictions are eased but we need them to come back. Businesses and accommodation will not survive bad reviews about service and facilities on Tripadvisor like before.
"It's important businesses are ready because, in spite of this being the year of the staycation, we are up against cheap offers in Europe and other popular destinations in the Uk.
"The challenge will be to welcome visitors and have them leave wanting to come back.
"There is much to be excited about, including the £25m Towns Deal as well as investment from the private sector."
LCC's investment has been committed over the next 18 months to lead and strengthen the county's tourism sector by guiding these high spenders to the county's hidden gems - whether it be walks, cycling and glamping the Wolds or exploring the wild coast.
This is in addition to previous investment, such as the rebuilding of Gibraltar Point Visitor Centre in Skegness, North Sea Observatory at Chapel Point and a £490,000 attraction at Huttoft Car Park Terrace, which will serve the beach and ‘act as a stop off point’ on the 16-mile coastal footpath from Skegness to Mablethorpe.
A funding schemes to provide grants to help businesses improve their digital offer also had a massive take-up in the Boston and East Lindsey areas so they can take full advantage of the work being done.
As well as major campaigns to promote the county and to help businesses access the workforce they need, the money will make the county more competitive by strengthening environmentally friendly tourism by producing a green tourism tool kit for businesses in the sector, followed by a recognition package to help visitors choose their green destination.
The county council will also be the first sponsor of a new green category in the annual Lincolnshire Tourism Awards.
"There is no doubt there is a need for this kind of holiday and Lincolnshire's natural environment has it in bucket and spades full," said Coun Davie. "The new website will help show that Lincolnshire has more to offer than just the coast, or a day trip, but that visitors can book a week or even longer and explore the countryside too."
To show the county in all its glory the website features high quality photography and video, and for the first time visitors will be able to book their whole trip to Lincolnshire, from accommodation, dining and days out, directly from the site.
The website will continue to be developed during the spring to include cycle friendly locations and other attractions with green credentials.
Coun Davie added: "The development of the site has been a long-term piece of work but I'm delighted we've been able to accelerate this using some of the tourism funding. This means the website will go live as people plan their summer holidays.
"This year we are expecting our county to be incredibly popular as a tourist destination, both for people who live here and from elsewhere in the country.
"As part of the council's £12m support package for the local economy, it was really important that we allocated money specifically for this critical sector."
Coun Davie added the website would work alongside other websites promoting the county, such as Visit Lincs Coast. "Throughout the pandemic we have had meetings with the tourism departments of other authorities and there has been some excellent joined up thinking.
"Lincolnshire County Council and the government are doing their bit to ensure recovery after the pandemic.
"It is now up to parish and town councils and Chambers of Trade to engage with the smaller businesses to encourage them to invest and take advantage of the digital offer which is vital for their survival."
Mary Powell, tourism manager at LCC, described the website as a 'big beast'.
She said: "It has been designed to inspire and inform.
"Lockdown has shown people have a desperate need for information.
"The new Visit Lincolnshire website shows the sheer breadth of what Lincolnshire has to offer.
"When visitors come to a website we only have a short time to grab their attention. This is just the first phase but we think it has the 'wow factor' to do just that."
The website has been welcomed by the Skegness Area Business Chamber.
Paul Dixon, chair of the Chamber, said: "The new Visit Lincolnshire website is a welcome new window for prospective visitors to see Lincolnshire from the comfort of their own home.
"The photography is spectacular and gives a real sense of the places which can be visited.
"The range of attractions and places to visit really does demonstrate that Lincolnshire has something for every visitor and a warm welcome awaits.
"The Skegness Chamber members have been working hard during this difficult time to renovate and refurbish their offers to ensure that visitors expectations are met and they become frequent visitors to see all this great county has to offer."
One five star boutique B&B featured on the website is the Elm Tree in Hundleby - owned by Jonathan Wilkinson-White and his husband, Chris.
"There has been a need to get the word out that Lincolnshire is more than just flat Fenland and agriculture," Jonathan said. "We always tell people you can travel from the coast and do countryside and the city in an hour.
"There are the Cotswolds and we have the Lincolnshire Wolds and there is some beautiful countryside around here.
"People can take nostalgic trips to the seaside to enjoy the donkeys and beach but also enjoy the market towns, antiques trails, countryside and historic Lincoln.
"We often have people rebook because they haven't been able to fit everything in.
"We are looking forward to welcoming our guests back. As we open all year we have taken a big hit during lockdown but have done takeaway afternoon teas and have reinvested government grants in freshening the paintwork inside and out and preparing for re-opening.
"It used to be we were the only five star B&B in the county but there are a few more now which is good for the county.
"When lockdown is over we want people to know we are safe and open."
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