Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Wednesday Forum: Leveraging Newcastle's inclusion in the Lonely Planet global top ten cities

In Newcastle makes Lonely Planet top ten global cities, 2011, I said of Newcastle's inclusion in the Lonely Planet 2011 top ten global cities from a visitor perspective:

I really was pleased, although the gains will be affected by the NSW Government's response. The biggest risk is that it will simply build the decision into its Brand Sydney strategy, essentially promoting Newcastle as a place to visit from Sydney rather than an end destination in its own right.

If it does this, benefits to Newcastle will be reduced because more people will come on short trips, fewer to stay. Just as bad, it will further increase the fragmentation in tourism promotion further north, splitting Newcastle from its hinterland.

What do you think that Newcastle might do to gain maximum benefits from its inclusion in the Lonely Planet top ten list? 


Mark said...

I was listening to local radio who were interviewing a toursim boss(cannot remember who or where from) and he said that Newcastle itself lacked depth. While there are other attractions within the Hunter Valley such as Port Stephens, Lake Macquarie, vineyards, historic Maitland and Morpeth, Newcastle was described as having very little.

I believe that when people say "Newcastle" they could mean the actual LGA, others may take it as combined Lake Macquarie and Newcastle LGAs while many more heap the whole lower Hunter as "Newcastle".

I've read examples of each meaning in reader comments online many, many times.

Sorry Jim, a little off the point.

Jim Belshaw said...

Mark, both your comments are exactly to the point.

To begin with, Newcastle however does not lack depth, it just doesn't take advantage of the depth it has. It doesn't tell a story.

Take, as an example, the convict period. I don't think that Newcastle markets it all.

Then the question of definitions.

The visitor to Newcastle doesn't give a damn about things such as LGA boundaries. These are modern and indeed changing constructs that badly limit thinking. To the visitor, Newcastle is a city surrounded by interesting things to see and do. Promotion must start by maximising the visitor experience. Everything else is a distraction.

Greg said...

Hi Jim, agree with your comments. I know that most outsiders don't recognise LGA boundaries. They think of Newcastle as being that large industrial urban area north of Sydney where they mine and ship coal.

The five lower Hunter LGA's that comprise "Greater Newcastle" are all rather jealous and parochial. Instead of promoting a "common brand" they try to set themselves apart from one another, presumabley because they don't like the stigma of being linked to an industrial and coal mining town. In the process they miss the opportunity of marketing a package which is unrivalled. City, historic buildings and places, working port, industry, vinyards, coastal estuaries, lake, wetlands, rainforest, bush walks, beaches, blue water etc. - all within 30 or 40 minutes of Newcastle CBD.

I am certain that is why Newcastle made the Lonely Planet list and that is what the city and surrounds should be promoting.

Jim Belshaw said...

Interesting, Greg. It's very hard to know just how to overcome this type of local parochialism. I found the same problem when I was chair of tourism Armidale.

I think one of the practical difficulties is that people actually find it very hard to get their minds around the reality that there will always be a hierarchy of brands each linked to a feature or set of features. One of the issues then is to find the best way to manage competition between brands to gain mutual advantage.

Sydney's brand NSW doesn't work, its too disparate, while there is a fundamental conflict with brand Sydney. A brand New England or North would work by providing a better framework for competition with brand Sydney.

Dropping below this, the Hunter is a natural brand, as are other areas such as the Northern Rivers. To a degree they are in competition with each other at the margin. Then drop down further and you have brand Maitland, Newcastle etc. Again, they are in competition at the margin.

The critical broader issue with competition is the extent to which it adds to total visitor numbers and spend.

For example, Maitland and Newcastle both compete in the Sydney weekend market. The normal assumption people hold in their heads is that this competition is a zero sum game; a visitor gained by Newcastle is one lost to Maitland. Yet the reality is that the combination of strong Hunter, Maitland and Newcastle (add in other centres) actually atracts more traffic.

Market drawing power varies. A broader New England or Hunter or Newcastle brand has a better chance of attracting international traffic than, say, a Grafton, Maitland or Armidale brand. A combined New England, Hunter and Newcastle brand campaign would be more powerful still. Once that international traffic is attracted, other brands and associated visitor experiences come into play in adding value.