Stakeholders in the town met at the Devonshire Dome on the afternoon of Tuesday 9 July for the formal launch of the final version of the Buxton Visitor Economy Strategy (VES). To download a copy of the report, click here (1MB).
The afternoon included an announcement of priority actions, discussion around how to take these forward, a presentation from Howard Swift from ‘The Way Design’ of Bristol, the business chosen to conduct a re-branding exercise for the town, and a discussion led by University of Derby Masters student, Saydie O’Brien, who is writing her Tourism Management dissertation on the VES.
The meeting was hosted by the VES Steering Group with the presentation given by James Berresford, Chair of Buxton Crescent Heritage Trust, supported by Trust Director Louise Cross.
Representatives in attendance were from the Trust’s Learning & Development and Engagement teams, Buxton Visitor Centre, Peak District National Park Authority (PDNPA), Discover Buxton, Vision Buxton, Pure Buxton, Buxton Civic Association, Buxton Opera House, Buxton International Festival, Buxton Festival Fringe, Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire (MPD&D), Explore Buxton, High Peak Borough Council (HPBC), the Pavilion Gardens and the University’s Centre of Excellence at Buxton.
Over the last twenty years, over £100m has been invested in Buxton’s heritage-led regeneration including £30m from the now-named National Lottery Heritage Fund – “more than any other town”.
The VES was created to help the town maximise its market reach and provide a route map for its future. The consultation, carried out by Creative Tourist of Manchester, involved thirty stakeholders across three workshops plus other interviews and research.
The VES is a five-year strategy and lays out a three-year Destination Management Action Plan (DMAP) and will be used to help Buxton “act as one destination, one place, one business” with a distinctive identity and narrative. The strategy involves identifying the type of tourism wanted in the town, improving visitor infrastructure and creating a clear brand.
Particular aims are to improve the back-stage facilities at the Buxton Opera House, develop a year-long programme of festivals and events and to bring the Monsal Trail through to the town linking the White Peak and High Peak cycling trails.
The DMAP includes 47 actions for the first year. Recognition was made of the town’s existing assets and ongoing developments:
- Crescent Hotel & Spa – completing the renovation and a successful opening
- Pavilion Gardens – continued renovation of the building complex
- Poole’s Cavern – development of the Visitors Centre
- Buxton Opera House – development of its back-stage facilities
- Devonshire Dome – being a well-used space
- The Pump Room – continuing to develop it as the gateway to the town
The following other priorities have been identified by the VES Steering Group:
- Carry out a town branding exercise and embed its outcomes throughout the town
- Sector-wide engagement
- Development of a clash diary – see our town diary here
- Marketing campaigns
- Development of experience and wellbeing packages
- Business development advice
- Improving the rail experience
In the following discussion, it was noted that ‘experiences’ are the future of tourism – bookable, 4-8 hour, immersing experiences to authentically connect with a destination. They are also a great way to bring in smaller businesses but these require help with development. MPD&D have applied for their business support funding to continue to 2022.
Once again, the ‘feeling’ that Buxton is not a Peak District town was raised. Which words best describe its relationship? Heart? Gateway? Buxton is within the Peak District region, which is more than the National Park and even the PDNPA do not particularly recognise the Park boundary around Buxton. They wish to work with and support the town with initiatives such as this. HPBC’s new council have a priority meeting next week. There is no cultural heritage strategy for the whole borough so hopefully the VES will help in trying to connect Buxton with other High Peak towns.
Next steps, along with the branding exercise, include creating delivery groups for different priority actions and forming a VES Interim Board to take it forward and find resources to ensure the action plan is carried out and the strategy is implemented.
The first VES ‘action’ taking place is to carry out a branding exercise for the town. ‘The Way Design’ has worked with national parks, spa towns and festivals and so feel well-placed to tackle Buxton.
During his presentation, Howard Swift described what was involved with a ‘brand’ and what they would be doing to develop its framework. Whilst it includes logos, colours, fonts, images, straplines etc, a ‘brand’ is more to do with defining and sharing the ‘core essence’, the ‘spirit of a place’. He spoke of engineered ideas, planned narratives and parasitic brainworms quoting a line from film ‘Inception’.
The group intend to build on the work undertaken by Creative Tourist and speak to residents, visitors, stakeholders (town businesses and organisations) and interested external parties. They will ask questions such as ‘what is this place about?’, ‘what makes it special?’, why should anyone care about Buxton?’. Unlike many places, Buxton does not have one main selling point, it has many – the water and spa, theatre, festivals, architecture, cavern, National Park – and whilst there may be better theatres, caves, National Parks etc out there, nowhere has the combination that Buxton has. Therefore, the ‘brand’ will not focus on one thing, but aims to represent the whole place.
Howard is planning a working meeting to take place in August and will carry out wider surveys and interviews to ensure as much engagement as possible. If you would like to contribute, keep an eye out on this news page and on our social media (links above) for updates.
All local businesses, organisations and individuals are welcome to join Vision Buxton. We work together to improve the town for residents and visitors alike. More information can be found here. Please get in touch with our administrator if you have any questions.