No ‘defined vision’ for Chichester district tourism

Chichester's Christmas lights switch on in 2013
Chichester's Christmas lights switch on in 2013
  • A Chichester District Council group has criticised tourism group Visit Chichester
  • A report by the council said the group needed more ‘robustness’
  • It is claimed there is more to be done to promote tourism

CHICHESTER plans to do more to attract tourists after current efforts were branded ‘insufficient’.

Visit Chichester – an organisation of volunteers who work in the industry set up in 2009 to boost tourism – was criticised in a report to councillors as having ‘no strategic vision’.

We are only scratching the surface

Stephen Oates, Chichester District Council

Chichester District Council’s overview and scrutiny committee heard a report from Stephen Oates, economic development manager, during its meeting on Tuesday (March 17).

It said: “VC appears to be an operational organisation with no defined strategic vision or direction and, despite its best endeavours, through lack of resources they have not been able to drive the 2010 destination management plan.

“It has a fragmented approach and is a fragile structure – it needs robustness.”

Mr Oates said Chichester’s tourism economy bought in £144m a year and 405,000 sleep-over trips, equating to a spend of £75m as well as 7,500 jobs in tourism and leisure.

But he said the council has not proactively developed its assets like other popular tourist cities such as Brighton.

West Sussex has been rated the worst county in the country for visitor satisfaction, according to Visit England.

“We are only scratching the surface,” he said.

“There’s a big opportunity.

“It’s another first-class destination on the south coast that can hold its head high among other better known destinations.”

Members of the committee supported a call for the district council to set out a brief, but clear, three-to-five-year plan which sets out a vision and brings authorities and organisations together to make the area ‘a tourist destination’. Councillors also supported calls for the bus station to be revamped and that the city needed more hotels.

Arun, Worthing, Adur district councils and West Sussex County Council have shown a desire to work with Chichester.

The report will now go to the district council’s decision-making cabinet for final approval.

Visit Chichester response

THE Visit Chichester chairman has defended his organisation as one which is ‘leading the way in the promotion of the local visitor economy’.

Andy Clegg, whose full-time job is as a programme co-ordinator for tourism management and principal lecturer for learning and teaching at the University of Chichester, said it has created two tourist guides and a website which successfully market the city.

He said: “I think we do a fantastic job.

“The council talk about our lack of vision or strategy which I completely disagree with. Managing visitor information is an important part of the visitor experience and developing a sound digital platform for marketing is critical.

“This is exactly what our new website does.”

He added the group was separate to the council so had to apply for grants and bring in its own funds through advertising on the website and in the guides.

“We have limited resources but we are making huge strides with the website. The site is a lovely site with potential to expand.

“If we weren’t doing it I don’t know who would be doing it. I enjoy doing it. I enjoy helping the industry.”

He added that because the volunteers did not have many funds or the authority to make changes, they had to concentrate their efforts on marketing.

He said he hoped Visit Chichester would be able to work with the council with its new three-to-five year plan.