As we hurtle towards the end of 2012, it seems like barely a moment since I first arrived in Bath 12 months ago. Its been an action-packed year, with so many memorable moments - new Visitor Information Centre; new Marketing Strategy; Bath In Fashion; Diamond Jubilee; Olympics; terrible weather; the first Great Bath Feast; busiest Christmas Market... the list goes on! And, of course, the planning and delivery of Bath's biggest ever destination marketing campaigns.
More important than all of the activity, however, have been our partnerships that are starting to come together across the city, setting the foundations for some really fruitful and exciting work in the months ahead. I started this job with the intention of changing how Bath Tourism Plus engages and works with our partners: I am delighted with the progress that has been made so far.
Bath Tourism Plus has a big job to do in 2013 - to ensure that the city maintains a high profile as a premier visitor destination and that we continue to grow our visitor economy. We have set ourselves some tough targets – we want to increase visitor spend to £400million by 2014 - so this means that we need to be ahead of our competition and continue to attract new markets. To do this, we will work with our 500 industry partners and in partnership with the BID, building on this year’s high profile national and regional marketing campaigns which promote and drive business to Bath and North East Somerset.
We need to realise the legacy of the Olympics and ensure that Bath secures the benefits of all of the media profile that we secured in 2012 from global travel writers. I expect tourists to come to Bath as a result of the extensive media coverage that we received and I want Bath to get its share of the extra 1million visitors expected to the UK in 2013.
We are in a good place: investment in the tourism product is at record levels, with hotels being refurbished (The Hilton, Frances, Abbey and Bailbrook House to name just a few); our new 5 star Gainsborough under construction; and significant investment in the visitor attraction at Number 1 Royal Crescent all adding to our visitor offer. The completion of Brunel Square and the addition of new 6 restaurants now gives a great first impression for visitors to the city arriving by train or bus.
Even though the Jubilee celebrations and Olympics are behind us, in 2013 we can still look forward to a packed calendar of events: the Bath Literature Festival and International Music Festival go from strength to strength, whilst Bath in Fashion and The Great Bath Feast are rapidly attracting national recognition and drawing new visitors to the city. There are very few cities that can offer such a packed and eclectic year-long events programme.
Big issues in 2013 will be around transport, the public realm and the independent sector. I would like to see progress on how we deal with coaches in the city, otherwise we might find that coach companies start to take their business to places that are more coach-friendly. I have been impressed with the improvements that are being made to the public realm: my hope is that the improvements continue, since visitors expect our city to be world class – from the pavements upwards! Our independent businesses are what make Bath so special (and consequently so attractive to visitors): in these challenging times, I would like to see how we can collectively do more to ensure that these businesses are supported and nourished. Oh, and I shouldn't forget funding: the squeeze on budgets will continue, demanding greater creativity, more collaborations and new commercial models.
Here's to 2013!