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“In the three months to January 2016, there were 7.6 million overseas residents’ visits to the UK, up by 3 per cent compared with the corresponding period a year earlier. However, 3 per cent less was spent on these visits in total, which means that British businesses need to work harder to make that conversion.
“Loyal customers are obviously a key factor in the survival of rural food and drink businesses, but tourism can also play a huge part, particularly at key times of the year such as Easter and summer. To ensure year-round success, businesses need to be visible to visitors. Sometimes achieving this can be as simple as dropping leaflets or business cards at your local Tourist Office, hotels or B&Bs – in fact, all these ideas should go without saying if you want to be seen.
“Some other businesses I have come across work with other local enterprises in order to cross promote. For example, a deli might team up with the local grocers or bakers to produce welcome hampers for hotels and B&Bs, strategically placing business cards and money-off vouchers in the parcel to encourage return spend. Alternatively, I know of some retailers who put together picnic baskets that are dropped off at local hotels for guests to enjoy on days out.
“Creating these relationships isn’t difficult. It’s a case of taking the time to visit other businesses and discuss options that might work and benefit both parties. Small hotels and B&Bs are often crying out for additional services that will improve their guest ratings, so if they can work with other local businesses to expand their services with no additional cost, this can prove hugely beneficial for everyone involved.
“Other ways to gain customers is to look at local tourism websites and get your business featured. Do your research and choose those with high visitor numbers and a good range of listings. Alternatively, get yourself on BigBarn where people can postcode search for local businesses near where they are staying. I know a lot of people who refer to BigBarn to discover interesting food shops or open farms they can enjoy when they are travelling around the UK.
“Finally, try and create a point of difference in your shop that will make you a tourist attraction in your own right. Perhaps you stock the county’s only buffalo milk cheese, or your Cornish pasties have won an award – maybe your cheese counter houses more local cheeses than any other in the town, or you make your own chocolates on-site. Try to think of ways you can make your store stand out so people come to visit you for more than just what’s on your shelves. Some good press coverage and a high level of social media activity will pay dividends when people are looking for places to visit near where they are staying.”