From left, Jill Harlow, destination data officer, Oli Whitehurst, web editor, David Thornton, chief executive and and Liz Walker, tourism development. Picture by Laura Holme.
PLANS to attract an extra 300,000 visitors a year to the Isle of Wight have been announced today (Thursday) by the new man at the helm of tourism.
Speaking at the official launch of new tourist board Visit Isle of Wight, its chief executive David Thornton revealed some of the ideas he hopes will encourage more holidaymakers to visit the Island.
The plans have already had support from the man in charge of promoting tourism in England, James Berresford — chief executive of Visit England — who said they were destined for success.
Mr Thornton said: "Visit Isle of Wight hopes to generate new visitor growth for the whole Island, which means engaging with shrinking markets and digging deeper to uncover more opportunities.
"Our number one priority is to encourage more people to come here, over a longer year, bolstering and widening peak periods while building troughs up to create a smoother curve of visitors across the year."
Mr Thornton announced Ventnor Michelin starred chef Robert Thompson, Radio 1 DJ and Bestival curator Rob Da Bank, and eco-fashion label co-founder Rob Drake-Knight, as the Isle of Wight’s first "media ambassadors."
They will promote the Island at media briefings and mainland events, including the BBC Good Food Show in Birmingham where Mr Thompson will promote the Isle of Wight food and drink to some 100,000 people.
Mr Thompson named Hovertravel and English Heritage as Visit Isle of Wight’s latest private sector investors, each contributing £10,000 a year, and revealed plans to create a Visit Isle of Wight office at Osborne House.
He said he wanted to reconnect with what he described as "the UK value driven holiday market — the honest worker who has seen their pay shrink, has real worries about the future, but feels under pressure to deliver a great holiday experience for their family."
He said: "It’s time to return to Treasure Island, Captain Sunshine and great family holidays in a place that feels a little like being abroad but is just four miles from the mainland."
Among those to attend the launch was Visit England chief executive James Berresford who has backed the project.
After the launch Mr Berresford said on Twitter: "A passionate board, a determined CEO and a local authority willing to commit for nine years — Visit Isle of Wight is destined to succeed."
Other ideas highlighted by Mr Thornton to boost tourism included:
• Merging the existing Islandbreaks.co.uk and gowight.com websites to create an official tourism portal, to be known as VisitWight and launched on Valentines Day next year.
• Extensive early promotion of events and festivals that have the largest potential to attract off-Island visitors.
• Harnessing the potential of the Island’s landscape, working with the AONB Partnership and the National Trust.
• Taking a thematic approach to marketing — food and drink, heritage and royalty, retro chic, sport and adventure.
• Extending the holiday season through projects like Robin Hill’s Electric Wood event, held during the October half-term.
• Having 'welcome ambassadors’ on ferries to greet people as they travel over, telling them about what’s happening on the Island, and other useful information.
• Promoting the Island as a film location.
• Exploring opportunities for educational breaks.
• An Isle of Music campaign to enhance the Island’s reputation for music.