Saturday, March 14, 2009

Glass half full!

Blenheim Palace and Formal Gardens have now been open for 4 weeks of the 2009 season and the early indications are (perhaps rather surprisingly) positive with visitor numbers up year-on-year for that period.

We haemorrhaged visitors through the summer months in 2008 and the months from then through to mid-December 2008 when we closed were tough as the global economic issues hit hard across most sectors - including leisure trips and tourism.

In response to this we prudently cut hard into our costs through quarter four 2008 in order to re-shape ourselves and to prepare for a tough 2 to 3 years trading as the world economies re-stabilise - we also wrote cautious budgets for the 2009 season with all of this in mind. The final piece of the jigsaw was a radical message and our "Buy one day - get 12 months free" marketing campaign was devised and launched from opening on 14 February 2009.

Initially launched exclusively with the Newsquest Oxford Group, the response has been very strong - albeit operationally very challenging from an IT and fulfilment perspective on site but our staff were brilliant in coping through everything thrown at them!

So where does this leave our view of the 2009 season - there is clearly a hunger for high quality "value for money/value for time" experiences and I am confident that Blenheim Palace - "Britain's Greatest Palace" - can deliver on that as one of the very special treasure houses within the heritage sector.

Other positive indicators, aside from the glorious summer that we are certain to enjoy (!), are:

>> A raft of national awards delivering high profile PR - national finalist in the Large Visitor Attraction category at the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2009; winner of the Historic Houses Association/Christie's Garden of the Year Award 2008; and shortlisted as the "most coach friendly tourist attraction" within the UK National Coach Awards 2009.

>> The weaker pound has a double benefit - we are more attractive to our overseas visitors and domestic business may be more inclined to holiday at home this year - emerging focus on "staycations" - although it is a dreadful word!

>> A strong events calendar with some good new events including an emerging outdoor concert in June - watch this space!

>> Strong supporting business - a big film booking is about to confirm for May (again, watch this space!) and there is a good pipeline of other enquiries despite the challenging economic outlook.

The global impact is clearly very severe and almost everyone has been affected in some way or other other - but I do believe that there is a determination to "get on with it" and to enjoy ourselves despite the many current challenges - for instance the crowds at Cheltenham this last week, the rapid sell-out for Glastonbury (before any acts were announced!) and the remarkable response to the 50 Michael Jackson dates - for that reason we are determined to adopt a "glass half full" attitude and to drive ourselves forward on the front foot through 2009.

For the sake of the challenges we face in restoring and conserving this wonderful world heritage site - including substantial money on the Blenheim Dam this summer - I hope I am right!

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1 Comments:

Blogger pembrite said...

It's very sad to learn of the loss of Tony White. It's also sad to say goodbye to Stephen Duckett-another valued colleague.
Blenheim goes on and it's encouraging to see the Visitors coming in goodly numbers to enjoy this great Palace!

March 22, 2009 at 1:41 AM  

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