More than 100 representatives from the travel industry across England attended the first in a series of sessions launching earlier as a regional engagement programme for the new £40 million Discover England Fund got underway.
The session was the first of six to be held across the country throughout February and March led by Sally Balcombe, VisitEngland/VisitBritain chief executive, who will be setting out ambitions for the fund’s delivery, the high-level criteria for potential bidders to consider and suggested timeframes for its phased implementation.
Delegates from travel trade organisations, destination management organisations, transport and attraction providers and local authorities among others attended today’s session held in London, as well as the tourism minister David Evennett.
Evennett said: “We want to encourage more people from at home and abroad to explore the breadth of the country and enjoy the best our stunning regions have to offer.
“That’s why we are investing £40 million into this Discover England fund that will provide a boost for local economies across the country.”
The fund will be seeking collaborative ‘bids’ to develop tourism products that provide an integrated tourism experience from journey ‘start to finish’ and incorporate transport solutions.
These itineraries must be bookable and work for international customers as well as benefit domestic customers.
They could be thematic products for holidaymakers or a business visits and events audience and could include group pricing initiatives.
Balcombe added: “The Discover England fund is a great opportunity to grow tourism in the regions of England by building world-class bookable tourism products that respond to customer demands.
“We want to engage with as many tourism businesses as possible and to encourage greater collaboration across the private and public sector and across regions.
“That’s why these sessions are a crucial part of our engagement process as we continue to develop our plans and shape development of the Discover England Fund.”
The fund has a phased delivery plan with year one looking to develop and support bids and collect market research and intelligence to inform their development as well as try out pilot activity, building best practice and delivering ‘quick wins’.
In addition to hearing about the Discover England Fund, those attending the regional engagement sessions will have the opportunity to network with VisitEngland and industry colleagues across the public and private sector who are interested in working together to access the £40 million fund.
Following the regional engagement programme, feedback from stakeholders will be published and will feed into the final development of the fund’s criteria.
People who cannot attend the sessions will have the chance to provide feedback online via the VisitEngland website.
The bidding process is due to be launched in the summer.
Expressions of interest will be called in December this year with a short-list announced in January 2017, full bids due in by March and successful bids announced in April 2017.