Steve Christian, Destination Development Manager, Southport
In September 2017 GTOs were able to discover Southport’s rich and varied tourism offer when it hosted the GO Travel Show North forum.
The town combines its traditional seafront with an elegant town centre and events programme, which includes activities such as the Arts Festival, Southport Flower Show and the British Musical Fireworks Championship.
How do you see Southport’s offer?
“Southport has managed to combine the best of what people love about the English seaside, with the demands of today’s visitors. Traditional attractions like the pier, beaches, amusement park and the iconic Lord Street have been joined by contemporary hotels, boutique B&Bs, independent restaurants and a vibrant evening economy.
“We’ve taken this and added more to ensure there’s lots to attract visitors with a fantastic events programme including the Flower Show, Air Show and British Musical Fireworks Championship, world-class golf, and an ever changing cultural programme. We have developed branding to showcase that Southport really is Different Every Time!”
What kinds of marketing initiatives help to promote Southport as a destination for groups?
“This year we launched the ‘Southport Pick ’n’ Mix’ to help GTOs, coach operators and tour planners build an itinerary using Southport as a base. It provides a series of themed suggestions for days out to meet the expectations of most groups.
“Themes include history, shopping, culture and nature and wildlife. And if more ideas, information or guidance are needed there is a point of contact who can offer further suggestions of places and attractions to visit within a short drive-time.”
How important is it to be a ‘coach friendly’ destination and how do you achieve this?
“Coaches and groups are an integral part of the town’s economy with Southport being one of the first UK destinations to be awarded CPT ‘Coach Friendly’ status in 2004. It’s so important to make it easy for coach operators to visit and to know what facilities there are when they arrive.
“Southport offers secure coach parking at only £5 per day, designated setdown bays, driver facilities, a free meet and greet service and both visitor and driver passports which offer discounts and incentives.”
How do you connect with potential group visitors?
“Southport attends key travel trade exhibitions to ensure that anyone organising group visits, be it day trip or short break, can find out directly from our team what there is to do in and around the town for their group, whether it’s a youth group looking for high octane activity or a more mature group looking for some slightly more relaxed itinerary suggestions.
“There is also a quarterly e-newsletter, which is sent to subscribers with all the latest news as well as a range of offers for groups.”
Are group itineraries changing?
“It’s not so long ago that groups would come to stay in Southport, and never travel outside of the central area. Many still do, because there’s plenty to see and do in the heart of the town, but now many groups are looking for different experiences.
“So when they get in touch with us to ask us for advice in planning an itinerary, we’ll often suggest spending a day in Southport, and then a day visiting Wildfowl & Wetland Trust, Martin Mere, Formby Beach and the nature reserve, or spend the day going into Liverpool.”
This article was originally published in issue 280 (April / May 2018) of GTO magazine.