Talking business

Businesses throughout the region are angered by the decision from Hastings Borough Council (HBC) to withdraw its share of funding from the 1066 Country Marketing partnership. Justified as a money saving measure, the move is instead widely regarded as a political one.

1066 is our region’s destination marketing organisation. It is the longest standing tourism partnership of its kind in the UK. In the last 25 years it has done exceptional work to put the historic region of 1066 on the tourism map. It is a not-for-profit partnership. Historically the biggest contributors to the budget have been the three councils covered by the 1066 region: Hastings, Rother and Wealden. The rest of the marketing budget is funded privately through the subscriptions of member businesses. Managed by a voluntary executive board which includes representatives from each area, the work of the partnership is down to a team of just three part-time staff who are seconded from Hastings council. They have always done an incredible job in keeping the 1066 brand in the media across print, digital and broadcast campaigns punching well above their weight. The website performs alongside the most successful tourism destinations in the UK.

This is a time when tourism needs all the support it can get. The tourism industry white knuckled its way through the pandemic and is now girded to cope with the recession. At a time when the cost of living is impacting on disposable income, we need to be sure that our region is maximising its share of voice in terms of marketing to attract visitors in their numbers.

Of course, we understand that Hastings Borough Council has to balance the books and right now it faces huge financial pressure. But this is the wrong decision at the wrong time. To withdraw marketing support for its most important industry is just foolhardy. Hastings employs over 7,000 people in tourism and the visitor economy is worth over £385m to the town – why on earth risk damaging that?

Of the £50,000 HBC is “saving” this year by withdrawing from 1066 they are investing just £15,000 back into marketing Hastings as a destination yet claim this will “re-imagine” the town with a “new approach”. Stretched that thin a great deal of imagination is going to be required.

There is no question that the region will suffer as a consequence of compromising the marketing partnership and when visitor numbers drop, that’s when jobs are lost and small businesses suffer. This decision doesn’t just affect Hastings it will ripple out throughout the 1066 region, because visitors don’t just visit Hastings – they visit Rye, Camber, Battle, Bexhill, Pevensey and so on – they spend money throughout the region. The visitor economy is one of the main economic drivers of this part of the country and this decision from HBC is a direct threat to that.

The power of 1066 lies in its partnership. Together the region is stronger and has a greater share of voice in marketing campaigns. The region has a shared history. It makes sense to market the region as a whole, rather than double up on efforts and cost and operate in silos. The brand recognition for “1066 Country” is excellent both at home and abroad – why seek to change a system that isn’t broken?

The work of the partnership gives us an international platform, promoting us to overseas audiences – overseas visitors spend more per head than visitors within the UK, so attracting back our international visitors post pandemic is essential.

Despite 1066 reaching out to them, HBC made this decision without coming to the table to discuss the potential for compromise or changes to the model. A public consultation was held and over 40 businesses responded, many from the Rother area, but we understand these were not shared with councillors, or the public. At best this makes a mockery of the democratic process and at worst suggests that HBC had made their decision well in advance of the vote that took place last Wednesday.

Rye would be hard pushed to match the reach and impact achieved by 1066 marketing campaigns. The partnership approach is a strong one, and one that Rother District Council continues to believe in. Wealden District Council is also still very much in support of 1066 but it remains to be seen what shape and form the partnership will be able to take with the departure of Hastings. Watch this space.

Image Credits: Chris Lawson .

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  1. I would be interested to know if the other interested local authorities were spoken to prior to Hastings taking this inconsiderate step. I ask this, because it was a “partnership” of local authorities who all benefitted from tourism bringing financial benefit to communities. Did Hastings look at income/costs?

    I presume Hastings will do some promotion, but without Rye or Bexhill, I do feel the decision is short sited, I look forward to seeing their new marketing literature.


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