Visit South Devon and Heart of Devon have today announced that they will be merging to create a new super Area Tourism Partnership (ATP).
The formal legal merger will complete by the end of September 2016. Visit South Devon and Heart of Devon will retain their existing identities and websites until a combined, super website is launched in December 2016.
Prompted in part by Exeter City Council’s plans to end their financial and staffing support for Heart of Devon later this month to focus on the promotion of the city, the merger is designed to cut overheads and costs. Economies of scale resulting from the merger will give the expanded Area Tourism Partnership a larger overall marketing budget, which will be used to increase the number of day visits, short breaks, longer holidays and business trips to Mid Devon, East Devon, Exeter and its city surrounds, Teignbridge and South Hams.
From the end of July, Visit South Devon’s experienced in-house team of marketing, communications and online specialists will take over responsibility for the maintenance and management of Heart of Devon’s current website and for the marketing of its attractions, destinations, accommodation and hospitality.
Over the coming months a series of social media, marketing and PR campaigns will be implemented to continue driving traffic to www.heartofdevon.com, which will be linked to the Visit South Devon website to encourage cross-promotion between the two sites.
Work has already begun on the development of a new identity for the merged ATP, which will be ready for the official launch of the super website in December. The new identity will include a refreshed logo and strapline that will draw on the strengths of the combined tourism areas and their established brands. It will be developed following a period of market research to ensure that the refreshed brand appeals to visitors and resonates with local tourism businesses.
Heart of Devon’s board and Visit South Devon will form a merged board by the end of September ensuring business representation from Mid Devon, East Devon, Exeter, South Hams and Teignbridge.
Heart of Devon members will remain on the existing Heart of Devon website until December, at which point they will be able to transfer free of charge to the super website, which will bring with it a number of instant benefits.
Unlike the existing Heart of Devon website the super website will be fully responsive, compatible with all mobile devices and will include extra functionality that can be opted in to, such as ‘on the move booking’ giving access to websites including Booking.com and Laterooms.com, as well as links to Trip Advisor reviews.
From April 2017 Heart of Devon members will be able to renew direct with Visit South Devon, benefiting from a range of new and expanded services.
Tourists searching for Heart of Devon destinations and attractions following the launch of the supersite will be redirected to the super website, which will host an expanded portfolio of area destinations, new area content and information about events, things to do, attractions to visit, places to stay, drink and dine in.
Derek Phillips, Heart of Devon Chairman, commented: “The decision to merge with Visit South Devon has been driven by our desire to offer our members an enhanced marketing solution and a seamless service once support from Exeter City Council comes to an end. Working as one we will be able to create a more powerful marketing resource with a larger budget, lower overheads and a wider appeal to visitors from across the globe.”
Stuart Longrigg, Chairman of Visit South Devon, added: “Reductions in local government and council budgets have focussed ATPs’ attention on how they can best deliver destination marketing with less public funding. Today’s announcement is a natural step in this process, bringing two outstanding ATPs together to create a much stronger marketing force and a more compelling offer to visitors.
“Working together we will be able to remove the duplication of content and a cross-over of geographic areas that currently exists on both sites. This will reduce confusion for the consumer and will mean that members who currently advertise on both sites will see a saving at renewal time.
“Under the merger, significant cost reductions can be realised enabling more money to be invested in destination marketing, social media campaigns, e-comms, website management and area destination PR. This represents better value for money for our advertising members, who will benefit from being part of a combined website that will welcome in excess 1.1 million visitors to its pages every year, and will deliver better services for visitors looking to enjoy the very best that Mid, East and South Devon has to offer.”
Legal advice for the merger has been provided by Ashford Solicitors, who have provided their services free of charge.
For more information on Visit South Devon visit: www.visitsouthdevon.co.uk