Virtual Tourism Conference talks tech and recovery

Leaders and businesses owners from across the tourism industry met online yesterday to talk about the role of digital technology in attracting visitors to our region.

The Tourism + Tech Virtual Conference was originally planned as a face-to-face event but the coronavirus saw a move to an online webinar, hosted by Tim Robinson from Tech East.

Over 150 representatives from across the region joined together to hear about online success stories during the lockdown and how digital platforms can help the industry recover.

The speakers included the executive director of Visit East of England, Pete Waters and Cllr Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council. Opening the conference Cllr Graham Plant said:

“The coronavirus has had a huge impact for many over the last few months and we express our deepest sympathy to all those who have been affected.  The tourism sector has been particularly hard hit and supporting it to recover is a key priority for the Council.”

“As the use of digital technology to do business grows, there has never been a more pressing need to inspire businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk to embrace it to innovate, cooperate, work more efficiently and be more creative.  It is my belief that digital technology can drive positive change and help your tourism business to not only recover but to be stronger and more resilient in the future.”

The online event was put on by Tech East and Norfolk County Council, in partnership with the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Norfolk Chambers of Commerce.

The conference covered a range of topics including digital marketing, adapting to the lockdown, adopting online booking and payment methods, the support available to businesses and the wider plans for tourism in the region.

One of the key talking points was the need to attract visitors during traditionally quiet periods, with a recent survey finding that 57% of people are planning to take a break this autumn.

The issue of off-peak season tourism will be addressed by the EXPERIENCE project, which is led by Norfolk County Council and co funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The project involves 6 regions in England and France, with the aim of boosting the number of visitors between October and March by creating ‘experiences’ that are unique to each area.

The panel also discussed the ways businesses can help young people into the workforce and the importance of providing accessible accommodation in Norfolk.

Following the success of the conference the organisers hope to put on future events that will cover the more popular subjects in more detail.

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