Destinations and daydreams: Why the South West really is best

Founding Director of Plum Communications & PR, Karen Morledge, recalls how a career spent working in destination marketing has made her acutely aware of just how amazing the South West is:

In today’s fast-paced environment, where there so often seems to be an imbalance between work and play, the importance of some R&R seems more important than ever before.

Photo credit, with thanks, to Martin Slade Photography

According to South West Food & Drink, in the South West of England alone, the tourism market makes up 10% of the region’s GDP, supports over 300,000 jobs and is worth £8 billion annually to the region.

It seems to me, that we’re all working hard in order to justify something to look forward to.

Whether it’s a full-on family holiday or a budget break, we have to break up our daily lives with a series of trips that pepper the annual holiday planner and I’m no different to the majority of the population in that respect.

Whatever I’ve done in my working life so far, I’ve worked hard and always looked forward to weekends and holidays. Since I’ve been running my own business, time off sometimes seems like a luxury but it’s definitely a necessity in order to maintain that all important work-life balance for which we all seem to strive. However, I do feel a sense of privilege when I look back on my career, for I’ve combined two of the things I am incredibly enthusiastic about – tourism and marketing.

Some of my earliest childhood memories are of the annual family trip from my home town of Cambridge to Weston-super-Mare, where the golden sandy beach would just seem to be infinite, as did the queue I’d be stood in to spend the day in the former Tropicana pool complex on the seafront in its hey day!

Don’t we all like to daydream of places we’ve been and experienced wonderful memories, or daydream about destinations we’d like to go to, evoking happy and fond memories that give us a momentary escape from the daily routine?

I guess there’s a long series of events over many years (too many to mention) which eventually led me to living in Weston-super-Mare and subsequently becoming the Tourism and Events Manager for the area. OK, so Weston may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s never been a time when someone’s not had anything to say about it in conversation when I’ve mentioned that’s where I live and work.

Imagine my delight (or dilemma depending how you see these things) when I was seconded to co-ordinate a public and private sector tourism partnership for the whole of Somerset. The creation of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) were the way forward.

And so, over an 18 month period with lots of trials and tribulations along the way, a new partnership was born between several local authorities, a national park and a range of enthusiastic private sector businesses. Somerset had its own identity, brand, destination brochure / visitor guide and website, which has now evolved into the success that is Visit Somerset.

Since my work within the destination management arena began, I’ve become acutely aware of my surroundings and just how amazing the South West of England is. From wonderful Gloucester and Wiltshire (yes I do think they count as South West) to the very tip of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, this region has so much to offer visitors, businesses and residents.

Somerset, Devon and Dorset are not just places you pass through to get to the ever popular Cornwall – every single one of our South West counties all have diverse and fascinating destinations just waiting to be discovered and experienced.

It’s my job as a professional marketer to match people with places, and destinations with daydreamers. It’s one of the things I do best and enjoy the most.

This article was written by Karen Morledge, Founding Director of Plum Communications & PR. Karen has over 15 years’ experience of marketing and communications gained within both the public and private sectors, and prior to setting up Plum held senior marketing, communications and PR roles for a housing assocation and local authority, as well as working for large newspaper groups in the South West and in her hometown of Cambridge. Karen has experience of working in a diverse range of sectors and has qualifications to support her practical application of her knowledge and skills. Read more about Karen and follow her on Twitter @KarenMorledgePR.

Photo of Weston-super-Mare credited, with thanks, to Martin Slade Photography.