Encompassing four areas - strategic capital projects; investment and skills; funding – the area which will support three town deals (Skegness, Mablethorpe and Boston) and two town deal boards; and the place team which has recently been restructured with a focus on place, heritage, culture and visitor economy – it’s safe to say Lydia Rusling is shoulder deep in the development of our visitor economy.
The former Visit Lincoln CEO, she is well-versed in making visions a reality – which is exactly what she’s doing now in the south of the county. Covering East Lindsey, Boston and South Holland, the largest council partnership in the UK at this tier of government, Lydia and the South and East Lincolnshire Council team is responsible for the area which has the largest attraction of visitors for Greater Lincolnshire, second only to Birmingham across the East Midlands. That said it is also the most seasonal. With a focus on encouraging more inward investment and addressing the issue of seasonality, Lydia’s next goals are very much aligned with the growth Destination Lincolnshire is looking to achieve across the visitor economy as a whole.
“Boston, with so much heritage, so many stories, and its worldwide connections just waiting to be discovered, really does embody the mission of Destination Lincolnshire and where it roots from. For me, Destination Lincolnshire is going to be all about working together across areas that aren’t currently thought of as being ‘tourist destinations’ to elevate their profile, offering and business partnerships.
“So much of that, especially for the area I’m working to enhance, comes down to pride of place. This is an area that Lincolnshire as a whole needs to be working on too, I feel, and somewhere that the new DMO can really help businesses. If we can better engage residents, across East Lindsey especially, in what they have access to right on their doorstep, they will be the best advocates for promoting our visitor economy.
“Engaging residents, making them a part of the solution, is the natural next step. If they love their market towns and coastal resorts and feel that sense of pride in them, they are more likely to bring family and friends… and so, the net widens.
“The question is, once that happens - even before - how do we better support each other’s assets? From Taste to Cycling, there are some great ideas already out there to tap into, and opportunities to increase what the visitor economy has to offer.
“Lincolnshire should be up there with the big boys - alongside cities such as York, destinations like The Lakes, The Peaks. And there’s no reason why we can’t be. Destination Lincolnshire is going to bind the entire county together, it’s a real opportunity to work with Charlotte and the team, from grassroots upwards, not from the top down. This really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to showcase the importance of every facet that makes up Lincolnshire, including our market towns and coastal destinations.
“The SME world is a community, and that’s what lies at the heart of Destination Lincolnshire. It’s not an old-fashioned tourist board reimagined. It will be a partnership, and it’s that that will elevate Lincolnshire. It’s becoming all about the experience. It’s the coming together of the entire offering and what that can offer people.
“During the pandemic, we were the frontline of support to those living, breathing, and trying to continue working in the visitor economy. With access to £60 million in Covid Recovery Grants, we were able to help 5,000 businesses, with £100 million going to the businesses that were most affected.
“Skegness and Mablethorpe were among those, we were on the phone all day every day to businesses providing that lifeline and advice. So many of those we were speaking to were family-owned and run businesses, so reliant on the season – the impact Covid had really was devastating for many.
“That said, it got us to truly understand what those businesses needed in way of support for their recovery, and beyond. Charlotte’s approach to the pandemic was so responsive, it really was what the economy needed. Focussing on business support provided by professionals that understood the industry, it was critical for us too, to appreciate their situation. And Visit Lincoln has been a consistent provider of that support. As we started to emerge from the pandemic, Charlotte and I worked closely together with industry professionals to gain significant insight. If we weren’t going to do it after Covid, we never would. It was the perfect time to show businesses where the support they need would be coming from.
“Destination Lincolnshire will be the golden thread that brings everything together to make it appealing to every visitor. Whether that’s a local resident or an American visitor discovering their heritage for the first time in Boston.”
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