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The AONB Partnership facilitates the Shropshire Hills Destination Partnership, working closely with Shropshire Hills Tourism, the recognised Destination Management Organisation (DMO) for the area. This joint working with the main local organisation for tourism businesses is especially valuable since local authority support for the tourism sector has declined significantly in recent years.
The AONB Partnership has played a central role in tourism in the area since 2011. It has supported the production of a Sustainable Tourism Strategy and achieved membership of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas. This has helped ‘mainstream’ sustainability in tourism locally, and influenced activity at a County level.
Shropshire Hills Tourism is the lead marketing body for the area. The AONB Partnership closely supports this and takes a leading role in supporting the other main function of a DMO – that of strategic management of the destination. We are also able to dovetail these tourism activities closely with the AONB Management Plan.
The AONB Partnership secured external funding for the preparation of the 2011-16 Sustainable Tourism Strategy, and has taken a leading role with the Destination Partnership since that time. The Destination Partnership is the main place where representatives from tourism businesses can get together with organisations managing key sites, with public sector bodies and with local community representatives. The communication and co-ordination achieved through this has done much to raise the profile of the AONB landscape and sustainable approaches to tourism. The Destination Partnership area is focussed on the Shropshire Hills but slightly larger than the AONB. It encompasses the market towns around the designated area, and this work therefore provides valuable linkages between the AONB and these towns.
In 2016 the Destination Partnership led a bid for RDPE Growth Programme (EAFRD) funding for Tourism Co-operation. This secured a £50k grant for on-line promotion of the area linked to themes set out in the Sustainable Tourism Strategy. These include walking and outdoor activities, local food and drink, and arts and crafts.
The strategic work outlined above complements other practical collaboration with Shropshire Hills Tourism. One example is ‘Great Days in the Shropshire Hills’, a visitor welcome map and leaflet entirely funded through advertising by local tourism businesses. Shropshire Hills Tourism manages the main web portal for the area www.visitshropshirehills.co.uk with a strong sustainable tourism message. Together we provide an annual networking and leaflet swap event for tourism businesses. A longstanding Sustainable Business Network run by the AONB Partnership has recently concluded. We are working with Shropshire Hills Tourism and other Destination Partners to develop stronger working relationships with business through a new destination network.
In 2017 the Sustainable Tourism Strategy is being reviewed and updated by the Destination Partnership, with lead facilitation role by the AONB Partnership. This will ensure continued prominence of the AONB and sustainability in the development of tourism in the area in the years ahead. We also intend to use the document to unlock future funding opportunities. The new Strategy will involve as many businesses as possible gathering their views through a business survey, one to one consultations and larger events. There remains a culture of support for sustainability among tourism businesses in the area. However there are pressures resulting from reductions in public sector funding, inappropriate developments affecting the landscape, localised pressure from visitors at popular sites and increasing costs.
“Running a regular group to help co-ordinate partners’ activities is a function which is often not a priority for commercial organisations, and with the decline in local authority capacity, this has been an issue for tourism in Shropshire. In the Shropshire Hills, the AONB Partnership has been able to fulfil this role, helping to make the AONB and everything that goes with it at the centre of tourism in the area.” Phil Holden, AONB Partnership Manager, Chair of Destination Partnership
Quote from participant
“Shropshire Hills Tourism is a business-led organisation and as such priorities are often given to the shorter timescale development, marketing and other activities. Working with the AONB under the DP umbrella we can focus on the longer term strategic aims using their excellent staff for support, especially as having a long term strategy is important when applying for funding.” Paul Davis, Chair of Shropshire Hills Tourism
Key search words: Sustainable tourism, business, networks, partnership, strategy, promotion
Photo Credits: Shropshire Hills Destination Partnership