Going beyond folklore
- 18 September 2015
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The story of Robin Hood is one of the most powerful legends, known worldwide and immortalised in Hollywood films. But can the tale of Robin and his Merry Men alone make the English county where it is based a successful tourist destination?
Is having folklore on your doorstep always an asset for tourism? Or do legends themselves need careful management?
The city of Nottingham ranked the 15th most visited UK destination for overseas visitors in 2013, generating 300,000 such visits that year and contributing to Nottinghamshire’s £1.56 billion visitor economy.
Something’s going right tourism-wise, although Nottinghamshire might not instantly spring to mind as an attraction for international travellers.
Experience Nottinghamshire’s PR manager, Erin Huckle, is among those charged with marketing the attractions of Nottingham and Nottinghamshire, and luring major conventions to the city.
While Robin Hood is undoubtedly a “major asset”, she stressed: ‘We weave him into much of what we do but are conscious of the audience that is not interested in Robin Hood, and realistic about the offer when visitors get here.”
Unlike William Shakespeare, for instance, the outlaw was not a living person but a legend “based on the stories that are told and re-told” with little to physically represent him apart from a statue.
This doesn’t stop Sherwood Forest (where Robin Hood was reputed to hide out), Nottingham Castle; the Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival; Robin Hood Pageant and other related attractions being popular.
Attract and disperse is the key; once visitors have been persuaded to come, hooks can be provided to other associated things that may interest them.
Initial interest in Robin is used to publicise places like the Galleries of Justice Museum (Nottingham’s former law courts and jail), the famous Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem – supposedly England’s oldest pub – and the city’s network of underground caves.
Three ideas for effective tourism marketing
- Use your strongest local assets to best effect: Nottingham also seeks to capitalise on its role as host of The Ashes international cricket at Trent Bridge, UK skating legends Torvill and Dean, the late Nottingham Forest football manager Brian Clough, and the fact it is the home of the Bramley apple.
- Employ colourful local voices to paint appealing pictures of your destination: visitors don’t like to be preached to by tourist boards. Real people with detailed knowledge and a real passion for local products and places are always the most authentic.
- Local dialect: Nottingham’s own distinctive dialect has helped sell the city. Both Angelina Jolie and Dolly Parton have also employed the friendly local greeting “Ay up me duck!”, although many in the American audience were probably puzzled at Jolie’s use of the phrase.
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