Melton tourism champions say it’s vital to safeguard the town and borough’s brand, identity and position within the industry after proposals were announced for a new combined authority to govern tourism strategy in Leicestershire.
Leicestershire County Council’s current contract with Leicester Shire Promotions – the organisation that promotes the county – is due to end in June.
Now, County Hall is to consult with stakeholders on a new approach towards delivering tourism support services in the future.
Among the options are to establish a local authority-owned trading company to manage tourism strategy and undertake commercial activity.
The tourism support services review comes after the city, county and district councils submitted a bid for Government approval to set up a combined authority, to guide key decisions on transport, planning, skills and other key issues, which could include tourism and place marketing.
If approved, the combined authority will be set up later this year. Melton Borough Council has already endorsed the proposals to create the authority and it would be among the district councils which would have a say on key issues under its control.
But Melton tourism champions have raised concerns about what the potential impacts could be on the Melton borough if the future tourism management proposals go through.
It’s understood that Melton – the rural capital of food and drink – welcomes more than 1.5 million visitors a year, generating over £80 million to the local economy.
Stephen Hallam is chairman of Melton Promotions, a body which was created by Leicester Shire Promotions.
One of Melton Promotions’ big projects has been to develop a Melton Tourism Blueprint (up until 2018) setting out ambitions to improve the area’s tourism offer and further develop its brand. The body is also constantly looking to develop new campaigns and ways to promote Melton.
Mr Hallam emphasised that Melton Promotions will continue in its vital role of promoting the town and wider borough regardless of the outcome of the review, but said one of his big concerns was “a loss of linkage” if Leicester Shire Promotions’ contract is ended.
He said: “Leicester Shire Promotions is a superb organisation. It would be a very sad loss because they are a part of us and they have such a huge scope as well as all the opportunities they see.
“One of my big concerns is that there would be no linkage between other attractions, accommodation providers and other tourism programmes, as well as losses in other areas such as best practice.
“Who is going to pick that up? Even if someone says they will it could still be two or three years lost.
“I don’t know the full A-Z as to why these changes are being proposed but it would be sad if they’re happening for political reasons rather than the betterment of the overall picture.
“It certainly puts more emphasis on the role of Melton Promotions. Melton has a lot to promote itself about but we need to keep investing in that promotion and keep Melton’s name in the mindset of tour organisers and coach companies in the tourism sector.”
Lisa Brown, Melton town centre manager and tourism development manager, said: “We can’t lose our identity and the momentum we’ve built up in Melton. Our work will continue but we will need to safeguard our brand if these proposals go ahead.”
Harrinder Rai, Melton Council’s head of communities and neighbourhoods, added: “Tourism is a very significant sector for Melton. It’s about how we can safeguard the town’s position in the tourism industry across the sub-region and how to make sure Melton continues to be seen as a tourism destination.”
Leicestershire County Council leader Nick Rushton said: “We estimate there are more than 30,000 tourism-based jobs in the city and county and 25 million visitors per year.
“Our target is to create another 10,000 jobs and boost visits to 35 million per year. We believe that these proposals could help us to achieve that.”
The councils will now begin a six-week consultation with key stakeholders on the options.
A report will be discussed at the county council’s cabinet meeting on Tuesday (March 1). A detailed report will be brought back to the cabinet in June following the consultation.