The COOL Tourism Project was a European partnership of 11 local authorities and organisations, based in the south of England and the north of France, working together to help each other compete effectively in the global tourism market.
COOL Tourism aimed to address the need for market research, product development and business support in the partners’ areas, and to encourage rural tourism businesses to make use of the rural areas’ environmental assets and local distinctiveness to attract visitors.
The project was delivered with the support of the European cross-border co-operation Programme INTERREG IV A, France (Channel) – England, co-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
The project partners included; Norfolk County Council, Essex County Council (Visit Essex), Kent County Council (Explore Kent), Visit Kent, Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council, Sedgemoor District Council, Exmoor National Park Authority, Pas-de-Calais Tourisme, Somme Tourisme, and Pas-de-Calais Gîtes de France - Find out more about these regions in the COOL Press Pack (PDF).
Europarc Consulting were employed to carry out a piece of work to identify new opportunities for rural tourism, gather understanding around customer motivations and examples of best practice from across Europe.
The results of this research has shaped the rest of the project and has led to the development of a business toolkit that provides advice and tips to Exmoor and Somerset tourism businesses in developing and marketing their visitor product offering.
Somerset partners identified four potential business networks to support over the project to provide good practice examples that can be rolled out across Somerset and Exmoor. Three of these are relevant to the National Park:
- Coleridge Way – When the route was initially developed a lot of work took place to encourage businesses to work together. The Cool Project will seek to look at new ways to revive this business network and support the many small businesses following the extension of the trail in 2014.
- Dunster – A number of meetings in Dunster demonstrated that local businesses have a new desire to work together to help promote their area in new ways. The Dunster Tourism Forum has been developed to explore new themed wedding & romance and active tourism packages to engage new types of customers. Lessons learnt will be shared with existing forums in other areas of the National Park.
- Exmoor Charter – The National Park Authority is looking to work with businesses to develop an Exmoor charter mark, which businesses can use to promote their sustainable tourism credentials and their commitment to the purposes of the National Park to visitors. This may include things such as energy efficiency, encouraging visitors to use public transport, developing local walks etc. The new business network will provide an opportunity for similar businesses to look at ways of working together to promote a particular offering.
Training workshops for businesses were developed, some of which were locally delivered as part of the Connecting Devon and Somerset and Superfast Exmoor Broadband Projects. ICT is seen as a key element in helping businesses to maximise their potential, whether it be use of social media, online booking systems, websites, apps etc.
Marketing & Promotion
This activity is broken into two sections: Marketing campaigns and Promotional tools. A number of themes have currently been identified around:
- Rural heritage
- Active and outdoors
- Nature and wildlife
- Weddings and Romance
- Relaxing rural breaks
- Food & Drink
The opportunity will exist to develop marketing campaigns around these themes, as well as develop relevant online and offline promotional tools. An image and video library for use by all will be developed as one output. This will include new footage being shot in order to support themed campaigns and marketing in future.
- Information for Farmers and Land Managers
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- Brendon Commons Council
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- Headwaters of the Exe Project
- Grown in Britain on Exmoor