Tourism Business Network
The Forest of Bowland AONB Partnership has been supporting tourism businesses for over 10 years – much of the work began as the AONB Partnership worked towards the achievement and awarding of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in 2005, which was later re-awarded in 2010. The project work was originally defined by a Sustainable Tourism Strategy (2005) that was developed alongside the Charter process, but now the work forms an integral part of the AONB’s Management Plan, rather than as a separate strategy.
What was done
- In 2005 a business-to-business network was established, to enable the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership to support, share ideas and good practice with a group of like-minded tourism businesses
- This network has steadily grown, and has now been more formally established as Company Limited by Guarantee – Bowland Experience Ltd – the company currently has 120 members
- The membership is made up of small, rural and often farm-based businesses including accommodation providers, eateries, visitor attractions and activity providers
- Bowland Experience Limited is a network that supports like-minded businesses to develop and promote the sustainable tourism opportunities within the Forest of Bowland. Its aims are
– To work collaboratively to ensure businesses in the area deliver social, economic and environmental benefit, while at the same time enhancing visitor experiences
– To enable related businesses across the AONB to connect and share ideas and good practice
– To provide opportunities to develop and promote sustainable experiences, activities and products for visitors linked with the Forest of Bowland AONB brand
- Bowland Experience Limited has been formed as a commercial subsidiary of the charity, Champion Bowland. Any profits from BEx are donated to Champion Bowland (Champion Bowland is a small charity which works to enhance the outstanding landscape of the Forest of Bowland AONB. It provides easily accessible small grants for local projects which benefit the environment, local communities and visitors.)
- The company’s directors are local tourism operators who meet four times a year to help guide the developments of the network.
- An established network of 120 tourism businesses promoting and supporting the AONB
- 40 members achieving Green Tourism accreditation
- 50 members undergoing Sense of Place training to promote the special qualities of the AONB and provide a consistent message to their visitors
- Attendance at a variety of training sessions including: ‘Know your AONB’, ‘Star Tips for Profit’, ‘Green Marketing’, ‘Social Media Workshops’ as well as familiarisation visits and ‘green ideas days’ to showcase good practice (run at least 2 sessions a year attended by 8-10 businesses at each)
- Annual Forum bringing together members as well as other tourism partners to share ideas and good practice – typically attended by 40 members/partner
- Visitor giving through badge collection boxes – with donations being made to Champion Bowland. One business, by collecting 10p on every cover at their pub raised £8000 for Access for All work and Trampers in the AONB
- Development of Tourism Cluster Projects such as:
– Electric Bike Network (involved 15 businesses)
– Tramper Network (involved 12 businesses)
– Teashops Trail/Real Ale guide (involved 20-30 businesses in each guide)
– Business to business walking trails (supported 10 businesses with bespoke trails)
– Advertising in Annual AONB Discovery Guide (20 business adverts)
- Development of a green destination guide for Bowland working with Green Traveller and promoting Bowland Experience green accredited businesses (involving 30 businesses)
- More recently establishing a Facebook page to promote the tourism opportunities of the businesses in the network and a closed group for business to business communications.
- Needs an active board and a commitment from the AONB to co-ordinate & support the network
- Time commitment to recruit new members and regularly communicate with them to maintain high levels of engagement
- The Directors’ meetings and annual forum, as well as a regular business bulletin are key for development of project ideas and future sustainability of the network
- Need to have flexibility to change as initiatives come and go, markets develop and businesses evolve e.g. Quality in Tourism, Green Accreditation.