Committed to helping hospitality sector bounce back stronger and better

Paignton seafront

Paignton seafront - Credit: Visit Devon

Leading Torbay businessman Vince Flower has taken on another key role. 

Vince, particularly well-known in the tourism and hospitality sector, has been recently appointed chairman of Visit Devon.

Here, the chairman of regeneration company TDA, who has several other roles in the private and voluntary sectors, talks about the Visit Devon job.

He also takes the opportunity to lend his full support to the English Riviera BID Company as they go through a ballot hoping to be given a 'yes' vote for a second term in office.

Vince Flower, chairman of Visit Devon.

Vince Flower, chairman of Visit Devon - Credit: Visit Devon

I am very excited to be joining the fantastic team at Visit Devon.

The past year has been an extremely difficult and challenging time for everyone.

We have all been greatly affected by the pandemic, and its dreadful impact on our community. 

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However, I have absolutely no doubt about the resilience of the hospitality sector and its ability to bounce back once the Covid restrictions start to be eased.

The hospitality industry is full of passionate, professional and dedicated individuals who collectively form the heart of this very important part of our economy. 

The visitor economy in Devon is driven by a diverse mix of large, medium and small enterprises, providing a fantastic array of products and services which, collectively, are worth £2.5 billion each year and provides employment to more than 65,000 people.

These businesses contribution is significant and important resulting in attracting more than 35 million visitors each year, making Devon one of the most popular destinations in the UK.

We are blessed to have many new and long-established successful businesses based in the county, every one of which have been working hard to navigate through these challenging times, protecting and developing their businesses.

We are extremely fortunate to live in such an amazing county, which has two coastlines, two national parks, five areas of outstanding natural beauty, bustling historic cities, the gorgeous Jurassic Coast to the east plus the beautiful English Riviera in the south. Not to mention North Devon, which features unparalleled coastal views.

Flying the flag for Devon

Flying the flag for Devon - Credit: Visit Devon

Visit Devon is a not-for-profit, destination management organisation which exists to promote, support and represent the tourism and hospitality sector across the county.

Visit Devon does so much more than provide excellent marketing support and resources, it is a vital communication channel for the visitor economy sector across the county providing advice and information, as well as using our well established and robust network to gather valuable data and insight, communicating this to the various Government departments and agencies that support the sector.

We are also a vital link for our visitors with the businesses across the sector and provide an important link with the various national industry trade bodies - collaborating and working closely with our other partners across the region, ensuring that the visitor economy sector has a voice and the ability, where appropriate, to support the development and implementation of central Government policies.

I have been struck by how strong and effective the existing partnerships are working across the region, in particular, the amazing work being done by the Greater South West Tourism Partnership (GSWTP).

The concept of the GSWTP is for an inclusive, equitable alliance that brings together the strength, knowledge and expertise of the leading destination management organisations and tourist organisations in the greater South West.

We provide an important link between the businesses in the sector and the local supply chain.

The importance of this link is only going to increase in significance and importance in the future if the country is to achieve our all-important climate change objectives.

I also believe that there is a tremendous opportunity for us to do even more on this front, helping support local businesses, connecting them, growing and developing their businesses, while helping reduce the impact of this vital business on the environment, reducing miles and carbon emissions and increasing the ability to recycle more.

We also provide an important link between the sector and the colleges and universities across the region, helping facilitate the roll out and implementation of various training and development initiatives, nurturing and developing the next generation of tourism professionals and entrepreneurs.

Looking to the future, we strongly believe that we have a vital and important part to play in the post-Covid-19 recovery.

We are committed to helping the sector bounce back stronger and better.

We need to build back better, improve accessibility and play an active role in helping the county achieve its climate change goals.

 Consequently, a key focus for us is sustainable tourism and the aim to be as carbon neutral as possible.

Visit Devon is a fantastic brand, which has grown exponentially since its conception in 2016.

There has been a steady growth on all social media channels, plus close working relationships with Visit Britain raising awareness of Devon, the diversity it has as a county and a key destination to visit 365 days of the year.

There is something for everyone of all ages and abilities.  From January to mid-May on the Visit Devon website we have seen some huge increases both on 2020 and also 2019 pre pandemic.

Sessions have seen an increase of 179 per cent on 2020 and 88 per cent on 2019, also the page views on Visit Devon have increased by 198 per cent on 2020 and 93 per cent on 2019.

This shows that more pages are being viewed by users than ever before.

Visit Devon has also just seen an increase in returning visitors to the website, from January to May 2021 the returning visitors were 35.7 per cent of the total number of users to the website, this has increased from 21 per cent in 2019.

This is showing that the Visit Devon website is offering full and concise information on where to go and what to do with updated information on Covid regulations and also direct booking for accommodation.  

Vote 'yes' for ERBID2   

Vote 'yes' for ERBID2 - Credit: ERBID Company

Finally, I should like to use this opportunity to express my commitment and total support for the ERBID2, which is taking place soon across Torbay.

Torbay needs a successful 'yes' vote if it is to protect its £3 million investment into destination marketing between now and 2027.

From what I can see, there is no Plan B as Torbay Council do not have the resources to replace this absolutely essential function.

Carolyn Custerson and her team have done an absolutely amazing job, being a vital voice and link for the visitor economy in Torbay, delivering excellent value for money, promoting and attracting much-needed visitors to the English Riviera.