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Bedfordshire County is one of the counties in England, which have been nominated to host teams in the build up to 2012 London Olympic and Paralympics games. This county's excellent sporting facilities were a key consideration to having it chosen to play such a vital role in these prestigious games. The pre- games training events to be hosted include those for athletes competing in the track and field athletics as well as sitting volleyball, archery, boccia and goal ball. This was as a result of efforts to make Bedfordshire benefit from the games which have been led by Bedfordshire Olympic Opportunities Support Team or BOOST which has done its best to make Bedfordshire reap the maximum from these games.
The Paralympics training camps are to be based at the brand new Bedfordshire halls of residence, which cost 20 million pounds and will use the new 8 million pounds Physical Education and Sport Science centre as well as the government owned Bedford International Athletics Stadium. This selection to join best of the best counties in England to help in the Olympic hosting event means that much rare spotlight will be showered on this county. The tourism board to boost tourism endeavors in Bedfordshire County can utilize this spotlight positively.
To this end, the organization, this is responsible for promotion, monitoring of tourism activities here namely Bedfordshire Tourism Office, should, and has done so much to ensure that the forthcoming spotlight is used to bring about prosperity to Bedfordshire County. Although it is a fact that Bedfordshire is not a natural tourism destination, up to 5 percent of the people from this county awes their livelihood to tourism/ visitor economy. However, with the forthcoming games, there are opportunities to get significant growth, which will come up with a number of benefits for the locals in addition to job creation.
The various stakeholders in collaboration with the tourism office and BOOST have come up with various strategies to ensure that Bedfordshire reaps maximum benefits from the forthcoming games. Some of their targets include:
Immediately focus on changing family day visitors into visitors who will spend a day or more. This is because visitors who stay overnight end up spending much more and hence are more valuable to the economy than those who just come for a day visit. In addition, Tourism Office is of the opinion that anyone who spends a night in Bedford during such important games is more likely to carry with him special memories of the place as well as tell others. The catch here is that the visitors will most likely recount their experiences to family members and their friends. Therefore, the more times that Bedford County features in these discussions the better. In addition, the nearness of Bedfordshire to London can be exploited in order to grow the tourism market before, during and after London games.
By use of new tools and techniques for example one stop shop website, it will make it easier for potential visitors to Bedfordshire to know more about the area. Farther, the tourism office hopes to build on the rural assets of this county and increase the number of activities and events in order to attract and maintain the rich adults. Another area which as been touted is combining the spill over opportunities arising from London 2012 with several other new investments in culture based activities in order to change how people perceive Bedfordshire county. In order to make visitors appreciate the beauty and serenity of Bedfordshire, the tourism office has been working with new and existing residents to install a sense of pride and civic duty and be happy that they come from Bedfordshire County.
By appreciating their area, they will influence the Olympics enthusiasts from England and other parts of the world to appreciate it as well. Finally, there is envisioned the creation of a new partnership between the private and public sector to work together on promotion and development. Majority of people who go to Bedfordshire do so on day visits. With almost 90% of the visitors not staying overnight, they are responsible for more than 60% of the total expenditure. This is higher than the national average which stands at 44%. Therefore, there is a need to encourage the visitors who will come for the Olympics, to spend as much time in Bedfordshire as possible. To the end, the tourism office has set out to polish the image of Bedfordshire as the perfect tourism destination.
The aim is to make tourists who come for a visit be so enthralled by both the nature and the residents, that they will be raring to come back again or even make them to extend the time frame for their planned visit. Strong self-image is being encouraged among the residents of Bedfordshire because in the end it translates into the reason why people want to visit. Further, when the residents of a given area are proud of their area, it will translate into more repeat visits because the locals are keen to talk about the area and this leads to friendships, which result, into more repeat visits.
Bedfordshire needs to capitalize on its blessing of having world leading attractions. These are in Woburn and Whipsnade, which are very appealing when it comes to the family market. Unfortunately, very little has been done to package these two areas as viable tourist attractions. This makes it very hard for potential tourists to make out what is to be found here. Therefore, with influx of visitors expected within a year, so much can be done by the tourism office to turn the spotlight on all the places of interest to be found in Bedford County. With most people being conscious of the need to holiday responsibly, 'green' offerings will result in increased visits and this is very possible given the rural geographical setting of this area.
Due to the nature of these events, it is to be expected that the majority of those who will come visiting will be adults without children. With cultural offerings in Bedford, being almost non- existent in the past, developments like National Centre for Carnival Arts will bring with it many other reasons to make visitors be attracted to this county. There is bound to be shortage of onsite accommodations but liaising with resident family members will rectify this situation. Any shortcomings in reaping maximum benefits from these events will influence very negatively on the peoples view of the tourism office and its capability in carrying out tourism promotion activities in the county.
Being a host to some of the pre-games events, means that Bedfordshire will benefit from so much free spotlight, which can be used to leave a positive image of the county, edged in people's minds. This can make post events tourism much simpler because potential tourists would be getting promotion bulletins about places they will already be aware of and hence it will be much easier to the tourism office officials as well as the local business communities. However, this spotlight will come at a cost because due to some shortcomings in infrastructure availability some of the envisioned tourists are going to face diverse problems. Some of these possible problems include shortage of accommodation. Although Bedfordshire has up to 40 properties, which offer meeting and conference facilities, only 60% of them have accommodation facilities.
According to hoteliers interviewed, most Bedfordshire hotels achieve full capacity on midweek days especially Tuesday and Wednesday but struggle to fill up during the rest of the week. This has made investors wary of this unpredictability hence making them shy away from investing in the hotel industry, which they consider less lucrative. This in essence means that the tourists who will be attracted to Bedfordshire by its proximity to London and the games to be held there will suffer lack of overnight accommodation if the tourism office and other stakeholders do not do something urgently to rectify the situation.
Some of the measures may involve vetting and registering families, which would be willing to accommodate tourists for a fee. This would ensure that all those who seek accommodation are directed to the right people for accommodation. With self-catering and on campsites almost non- existent, this is likely to impact very negatively on the capacity to cater effectively for all the anticipated leisure requests from the visitors. Therefore, it is advisable for the Tourism Office to lobby local investors into venturing into this market segment. There are very few areas outside London as well placed as Bedford to reap the maximum benefits of the forthcoming events.
Therefore, maximum efforts are required to make sure that maximum returns are achieved. To this end, information was collated on all ongoing and planned developments and their timescales and the developers urged if possible to bring forward completion dates to coincide with these momentous events. Just to put onto perspective how serious the situation is, there is a serious mismatch between the total meeting room capacity and the number of beds available in the region. With less than 3000 bed capacity in both Bedfordshire and Luton, total meeting room capacity is 38,000. 40% of the 58 properties, which boost of meeting space, have neither accommodation on site nor any relationship with other hotels, which might offer an accommodation package. The various proposed developments will address this area but service providers ought to look at possibility of providing more overnight packages.
One of the areas, which are doing particularly well in anticipation of the forthcoming games, is Milton Keynes, which seems to be doing quit well with several international hotel brands and meeting plus conference venues. These are already at an advanced stage of developing as well as having their own conference bureaus. Several advantages exist because of such an approach because it ensures the essential conversion and customer enquiry is professionally handled. Presence of databases lead to access to a much wider audience in the market place. If Bedfordshire can borrow a leaf from Milton Keynes, then there would be increased access to the necessary information.
Some of the areas of interest, which the tourism office ought to address in its advertisements, include the following. Firstly, some of the participants and spectators will travel with their young children and there will be a need to keep the young kids active so that their parents will have time to themselves and in the case of participants, ample time for training without the pressures of worrying about their kid's welfare. Further, informal and self-catering accommodation is the most preferred by families who are going abroad together. In addition, hotels which have kids clubs, qualified nannies babysitting and menus for children should be noted and their addresses provided in the brochures which the
There have been mixed responses regarding the way media coverage affects the celebrities. However, what is obvious is that during the forthcoming London games media from the whole world will be in attendance Bedfordshire included. Although the public complain that the media is offensive in the way it covers the famous peoples' private life, it is indeed the same that has enabled most of the famous people to attain the huge command they have. In the same manner, Bedfordshire can capitalize on this free publicity glitz to gain a foothold in the world of tourism.
This is the case with the politicians, top sports personalities, artists and prominent business personalities especially when they maintain an acceptable code of behavior. Due to the respect accorded to them, the public uplifts them even higher as it is human nature to want to be associated with the best people in the society. Therefore, the politicians get even a wider support when the media covers their actions and especially their positive actions. The top sportsmen, supermodels and investors gain financial benefits through increased business preferences and sponsorships. With this in mind, the Tourism Office officials can invite some big shot personalities who will be attending the London Olympics to public or private events in Bedfordshire in order to turn the spotlight to the county.
There is also another benefit for the wide media coverage, which is accorded to the famous people. Famous people can use their positions to persuade people to behave in a certain manner. Celebrities therefore have the ability to bring about positive change in the society because many people tend to believe in them. As role models, the public see them as nearing perfect and so the public heed their advice. It is also due to media coverage that the famous people restrict themselves to good behavior as they seek to maintain a positive image. Behaving badly would otherwise result in rejection, which most celebrities would avoid at all cost. Therefore, convincing celebrities like the Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt to visit Bedfordshire would be a tourism coup and a serious for the local economy.
However, the media is getting so much concerned covering the lives of the celebrities so much so that they forget to deliver some very important message, which would otherwise give help in developing the common citizens. Due to this, it is important for the Tourism Office to ensure the places of interest in Bedfordshire are given as much spotlight as the celebrities who go there. Most of the public blame the media for offering so much time to coverage of the celebrities. Other factors of development are therefore neglected as the famous individuals draw the attention of the media. The media also invades the celebrities private life making them live uncomfortably. Although the same media has helped bring the famous people in the limelight, there should be respect for their private life. To this end, the presence of sports personalities in Bedfordshire can be popularized only when the causes they are involved are noble ones.
There is all evidence that there is an excessive coverage of the famous peoples' lifestyles. Although this is beneficial to the famous as well as the common public, it is important that a balance be sought between media coverage and its relevance to the development of human beings. Privacy of the celebrities should be respected but the wrong things they do should be availed to the public that will ensure that the famous people behave as expected. Bedfordshire should be captured in positive light by the media if it is to rank alongside other great tourist destinations worldwide.
The fame of Bedford Creative Arts Gallery, Cecil Higgins Art Gallery as well as the Stockwood Craft Museum has been on the rise. Therefore, it is up to the stakeholders and the tourism office to ensure that as many visitors as possible visit and are impressed so that they might be happy to come back again. Projects like the Gateway Visitor Centre on Dunstable Downs bring with them the potential to capitalize on the rural aspects of Bedfordshire in order to offer attractive green experiences yet closer to the urban centre. Hotels like Luton Hoo will offer the needed five star experiences to the visitors but they will have to contend with increased security checks on visitors as a deterrent to any attacks by terror networks.
With tourism supporting approximately 7,000 jobs, experts project that it is possible to generate and maintain at least 4000 jobs during the period of the games. This requires serious marketing efforts and a combination of investment in new products coupled with professional promotion. The Bedfordshire county council will play a key role in all these proposed endeavors otherwise it will fail in its role which it has put very succinctly as 'Making Bedfordshire thrive'. During these forthcoming games , their will be need for the tourism office to come up with harmonized point of contact for all the players in the conference and meetings market in order for them to maximize the opportunity incase there are any inquiries from the potential clients.
Further, transport getaways need to be audited in advance of the 2012 London games to recommend changes and improve the flow of information as well as the welcome. Also in collaboration with the police department, this office can ensure that there are several volunteer guides to direct tourists to the various places they might be interested in. This will in turn lead to creation of new relationships, which are a major reason for repeat visits to most tourist destinations worldwide. In addition, the tourism office can promote Bedfordshire as a perfect tourist's destination far away from the noisy London yet close enough for the tourists to travel back and forth daily.
The tourism department can further team up with the police in their advertisements and marketing activities to reassure the tourists of their security while staying within Bedfordshire County. This means that the tourists would feel reassured knowing that they are secure from thugs and other criminals who may target gullible visitors. Further, brochures highlighting all the best places of interest in Bedfordshire ought to be distributed not only in Bedfordshire but in London as well because this is where the main events will be occurring. This will help visitors In London who are looking for a way out of the noisy city environment into the airy rural areas. Presence of both local and international journalists will provide both an opportunity and a challenge. This is because it is up to the journalists to choose what to focus on and with good public relations gestures from the tourism officials as well as other government agents; it is possible to cast Bedfordshire in very positive international light.
Conversely, a negative event occurring in Bedfordshire will most likely lead to a frenzy of negative publicity, which may end up ruining the reputation of Bedfordshire for a very long time or even forever. This means that there is a need for committed public relations practitioners to ensure that any damage is controlled at the right time. Finally, the strictness with which the police officers are likely to treat all arrivals in the process of verifying their identification is likely to work contrary to the aspirations of the tourism office with the possibility of some people feeling harassed.