North Devon tourist industry will need to work 'harder than ever', says tourism chief

NORTH Devon hotels, B&Bs and guest houses will have to work harder than ever to attract business this year, according to tourism chiefs speaking at the region s first ever tourism conference yesterday (Wednesday). The memory of three successive wet summer

NORTH Devon hotels, B&Bs and guest houses will have to work harder than ever to attract business this year, according to tourism chiefs speaking at the region's first ever tourism conference yesterday (Wednesday).

The memory of three successive wet summers, the weak British pound, competition from other parts of the UK and abroad, and destination information readily available on the internet are all expected to affect bookings this year.

Acting chairman of Visit Devon, Jamie Christon, said that web-savvy visitors were going on-line to check the availability of rooms and are waiting until the last minute to drive harder bargains with hoteliers.

"It will be one of the hardest years yet," said Mr Christon, who is also managing director of Exeter Airport.


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"Customers are using the internet to check out destinations before they come. They know where beds are available and are waiting until the last minute to get the best deals.

"One guest house owner in Mid Devon said that she was only 20 per cent full a few days before the February half-term break. But the phone started ringing Friday lunchtime and by the end of the day, she was fully-booked.

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"Devon is also facing competition from other DMO (Destination Management Organisation) websites. And we've had three wet summers in a row; will they come again?"

But also speaking at the Northern Devon Tourism Conference 2010, Steve Pitcher, chief executive of local Area Tourism Partnership (ATP), North Devon+, said that the area's dedicated tourism website www.northdevon.com had received record views in 2009.

"The website has seen a 45 per cent increase in visits in 2009, around two-million page views a year," he said.

"There were around 200,000 unique visitors to the site last year, with an average of 5.25minutes spent browsing."

North Devon+ marketing project manager Elaine Norton said the development company was looking to develop its website in order to generate the revenue needed to afford to advertise North Devon in the national media.

Speaking about the marketing plan, she said a comprehensive "one channel" website of local goods and services for visitors and locals would help create a sustainable revenue stream for the company.

Mrs Norton also said that North Devon+ was supporting a project to market North Devon as one of the UK's top watersports destinations.

The company is working on a project to boost the marine leisure sector and its economic impact in North Devon by working with watersports businesses, the public sector and voluntary bodies to develop sustainable local opportunities.

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