We caught up with Michelle Sacks, Deputy Chief Executive (Growth) at Boston, East Lindsey and South Holland Councils. A huge part of Michelle’s role comes down to shaping the visitor economy from the inside, through the team and elective members that support it.
Utilising a huge network of key contacts countywide, Michelle is already actively working to further the mission of Destination Lincolnshire. Having strategic insight into what’s going on outside of the visitor economy is also a vital part of Michelle's approach to her role across East Lindsey and South Holland. Offering a fuller, panoramic picture, allowing Michelle and her team to layer what the visitor economy offering truly means. From its reach to funding, to deliver the whole package. For Michelle a huge challenge is changing perception of place, something she believes will be fast-tracked by Destination Lincolnshire and the credibility of the new DMO.
“If you can’t speak passionately about where you live and work, you can’t expect others to come and visit. Destination Lincolnshire does just that, and more. It amplifies that celebration of place and encourages all of us to continue to do the same – with the knowledge and support to help those businesses who struggle to effectively speak up. The importance of Destination Lincolnshire is to provide that momentum, motivation, and support to businesses when it comes to ‘the product’.
“We need to look at this opportunity to broaden our offering, in all three areas we look after - delivering maximum appeal and creating a new culture. Finally, we have a DMO that will push this change in culture forward and deliver the joined-up approach the county has always needed. A DMO that understands the value of these localities alone and together.
“It’s vital that locations, all locations, aren’t seen in isolation. Talking about the visitor economy, and how it links into the wider economy and has a wider impact across Greater Lincolnshire. Looking at how businesses are marketing themselves, who is their audience? The DMO is the business group where these answers can be looked at and developed. It is the new network for the visitor economy.
“With Visit Lincoln, the name said it all. The headliner was Lincoln. So, pulling people away from Lincoln is an uphill battle sometimes. But the way it’s evolving now, Destination Lincolnshire is crucial to place marketing, and the more the DMO does to market Lincolnshire as a place to visit, the landslide effect is people taking pride in where they live. If we can celebrate places to visit, that sense of pride of place has a huge knock-on effect on education, living, and retaining people to work.
“Lincolnshire has always been modest. We have some of the biggest businesses, and innovation, on our patch but because agriculture hasn’t ever been seen as sexy, it’s not been youthful, we’re under the radar – and for too long. Our offering is phenomenal, but it is divided. It is only together through Destination Lincolnshire that we can bring those industry elements together to rival destinations such as Norfolk and bring up the quality of what we’re delivering here.
“For somewhere like Mablethorpe it will be about building interest outside of ‘the season’ to demonstrate what else there is to do in the area. There are still so many opportunities for local residents and visitors to learn and understand more and use what is on their doorstep once again to the full. But it’s a culture change, and it has to be embedded.
“Product development is going to be a huge focus. Being able to develop products to tap into alternative markets will provide a huge lifeline to so many businesses. The more people discover Greater Lincolnshire the more chance they have of exploring, visiting different parts and visiting again. Connecting locations and offers with strong business support, it’s vital.
“Consumers are very different today – and they continue to evolve. You have to emotionally hook them in. There are amazing examples of how it can be done here, and it can be done. It’s instilling that confidence post-covid, through product and understanding the market. The cycling economy for example is a package which shows people how they can tap into a niche market – one that has been massively accelerated by Covid.
“The alliance [between East Lindsey and Boston] has really brought together and created an enormous capacity for tourism opportunities. Our market town visitor economy is something we’re really working to push, adding to the depth and breadth of the offer and people’s expectations as we emerge from Covid. The incredible collection of historic buildings we have in this region has never had the investment it deserves – things are now changing. Destination Lincolnshire means so much to us. It’s giving us the faculty to bring together the distorted offering of Boston into something coherent and tangible.
"But the changes we need to make run deeper, into how we view both hospitality and seasonality as a career. We see both sectors as places to hold an A-level career, it isn’t one with longevity and that’s a UK/society-wide skills issue. The opportunity for career development in the visitor economy, and hospitality in particular, is vast. You can have great careers and fast progression. The doors it opens are phenomenal yet it’s not something we value. Opening up these career paths is so important. We need to show young people that jobs in the visitor economy are valued and important. And that is yet another focus Destination Lincolnshire will address.”
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