Visit Birmingham launches new social media led Christmas campaign

Published on : Friday, November 8, 2013

visitbirminghamThe World Travel Market panel on Responsible Volunteering today (Thursday 7 November) combined signs of progress with revelations of continuing failures to clean up the voluntourism industry, especially concerning issues around child protection and orphanage tourism.



On the previous day People and Places had won the award for Best for Responsible Tourism Campaigning.  Today its programme director Sallie Grayson opened with a look at developments in the voluntourism industry over the past 12 months. She commended for removing all orphanage tourism from its site, hoping that such high profile leadership might encourage other companies to make similar changes.



However, she was not optimistic as she revealed that she had recently contacted 90 volunteer organisations and asked if they had child protection policies. Just 26 responded, of whom 15 declared yes, but only five of them either make their policies publicly available or sent her the requested proof.



“You can work with organisations that support children, but those organisations must be doing everything they possible can to keep those children in their communities and with their families,” said Sallie.



Vicky Smith from the International Centre for Responsible Tourism focussed on the responsible marketing of volunteering, and revealed that average monthly Google searches for keywords “volunteer abroad” number 9900, but for “responsible volunteering” it is just 10. She did, however, believe the internet could be used promote transparency. “Social Media offers volunteers the chance to hold voluntourism organisations to account,” said Vicky, citing examples of individual volunteers exposing problems on Facebook and companies changing their policies as a result. This is particularly important, she said, because currently “lack of regulation of volunteering means volunteers are buying poor products and not able to hold bad companies to account.”



In one final significant positive development, Sallie Grayson announced that People and Places would this year be launching a directory of responsible volunteering companies, enabling those wishing to find ethical volunteering opportunities to have a starting place they could trust.



The last session of WTM 2013’s responsible tourism programme looked at the economic contribution of heritage to tourism. Dr Jonathan Foyle, Chief  Executive of World Monuments Fund Britain, revealed that heritage tourism was now worth £26 billion  to the UK economy. However he said, there was another side to this growth, citing the example of Venice, where the native population has halved to 50,000, but 80,000 tourists arrive each day. “The age of mass tourism has enabled people to enjoy Venice but inflicted a huge toll on its resources,” he said, revealing that cruise ships now bring 20,000 a day into the city, but without adding much benefit to the economy or community. The guests sleep and eat their meals on the ship, and just spend a few hours on the streets of Venice, where their main purchases are snacks and souvenirs. This in turn is creating a huge waste problem for the city.



He described a similar situation in Cambodia, where the popularity of the Angkor Wat temple complex has seen many new hotels built. But unfortunately they are drawing heavily from the water table, and as a result monuments are subsiding. This damage is compounded by the volume of tourists eroding structures as they walk across them.



Well-managed heritage tourism, however, can bring huge benefit to regions, and Oliver Maurice, Director of the International National Trusts Organisation revealed that 78% of holidays to South West England were motivated by the conserved landscape and supported 43% of all tourist related jobs in the region. Chris Warren, a Sustainable & Responsible Tourism Consultant from Australia, explained that heritage tourism was also about far more than just the money it brought in. He cited examples of the importance for communities to connect with ‘intangible heritage’ such as their culture’s stories and events in their past, adding that: “The value of intangible heritage helps to reinforce a community’s identity and contributes to community development and resilience.”Set to entice visitors to the region this festive season, Birmingham-born presenter Emma Willis (Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity…, The Voice UK) is championing the city as part of a new Christmas campaign launched today (07.11.13).



‘Christmas now trending in Birmingham’ is a social media led campaign from Visit Birmingham, the city’s leisure tourism programme, designed to get people talking online about the region’s seasonal offer.



It will use Twitter hashtags such as #festivefun, #shoppedtilidropped and #encore to encourage people to tweet about the activities that they are enjoying across the region and inspire others to visit.



The festive fun gets underway with a Christmas Parade and Lights Switch On, led by Father Christmas and his reindeer, on Saturday, November 9. The hour- long procession, starting and finishing at Victoria Square, will bring to life the spirit of pantomime, featuring children’s favourites, stilt-walking Christmas trees and roller skating puddings.



From November 14 to December 22, the bustling Frankfurt Christmas Market and Christmas Craft Market will teem with treats, gifts, decorations and traditional German food. There is no need to worry about the winter chill, as there will be plenty of hot, tasty bratwurst, chocolate crepes and glühwein to keep revellers warm.



The multimedia campaign will shine a spotlight on the city’s great selection of retail, food and drink, seasonal events, culture and attractions – whatever time of day or night. A dedicated section of the Visit Birmingham website – – has been set up to guide visitors around the seasonal activities and events.



Emma Gray, director of marketing services at Visit Birmingham, said, “Last year Birmingham drew a record 33.8 million visitors and we are looking forward to welcoming crowds of tourists this Christmas to enjoy a variety of attractions, suitable for all budgets and age groups.”

This year, Visit Birmingham has once again joined forces with travel partner London Midland, which operates a frequent service to Birmingham from the West Midlands and beyond.



‘Christmas now trending in Birmingham’ is also supported by the Southside BID and Jewellery Quarter BID.




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