• Sara Vian

Passion Carves a Way...

Paulton-based   John   Turner   is   the   “dynamo-CEO”   of   Visit   Somerset,   the   official   destination management organisation (DMO) for the county of Somerset.

Originally  a  volunteer  director  at  Clarks  Village,  Turner  became  the  first  CEO  of  Visit  Somerset  in 2013, aiming to “shake up and take up” the business, using a public and private sector alliance.

Visit  Somerset  is  a  membership-based  not-for-profit  Community  Interest  Company (CIC),  which  puts  all the profit made back  into  marketing  the  County  of  Somerset,  using  a  huge  digital  platform which consists of a website, E-book, interactive app/map, socials & YouTube (Visit Somerset TV), attracting a massive 8.5m  reach  in  2017.

Somerset is apparently worth over £1.3billion as a visitor economy and is the 6th largest GDP-driver, representing 34,000 FTE jobs; include food and drink on top of that and we’re talking a gargantuan £2billion before even putting the glorious City of Bath on top of the cake, which generates £110million annually on its own.

So Somerset can now boast international tourism worth £360million annually, which is more than both  Devon  and  Cornwall  combined, and according  to  the  Independent  Passenger  Survey  2016, Wells,  Street,  Glastonbury  and  Cheddar  were  all  sited  as  being  major  areas  of  growth  after being targeted by Visit Somerset in the last four years.

The Somerset Tourist Association is the legal entity behind the Visit Somerset brand, which was set up in 2011 and was originally part of the Sedgemoor Tourist Association, working with legends such as world-class photographer, Ian Brodie (MBE), who compiled the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit Location Guides for Harper Collins and Warner Bros.

During his time with the Visit Somerset team, Brodie shot 2000 images and launched the premier interactive E-book for the UK Visitor Economy, portraying “our beautiful county in all its glory” (Turner) and elevated Visit Somerset to become the most sophisticated DMO in the UK for digital strategy.

Sacrificing  the allure of a more highly-paid purely commercial  role  for  the  excitement  of  taking  the  Visit  Somerset  brand forward, Turner believes he can transcend far beyond any multimillion pound marketing campaign because “You cannot buy passion.  I am truly proud of my team and all that we have achieved  over  the  last  four  years,  taking  a  business  that  was  completely  in  the  voluntary sector to one that is now supporting six full and part-time staff with further developments to come!”

Turner began to raise the profile of the Visit Somerset enterprise by spending the first two years inviting [local] celebrities such as Michael & Emily Eavis (Glastonbury Festival), Simon King OBE, Duncan Bannatyne OBE, Martin Thatcher (Thatcher’s Cider), Ian Brodie MBE, Martin Roberts (BBC Homes Under the Hammer), Lord Jeffrey Archer and Damien Boyd to become ambassadors.

Favouring Frome particularly and describing it as “one of the greatest artisan towns in the UK, and an asset and jewel in the crown of Somerset”, Turner intends to attract more visitors out of London particularly because we’re on the mainline, albeit it slow, but then he also intends to reinvigorate the public transport system; already forging good relations with GWR trains, First bus and Buses of Somerset to “get people out of their cars” and has notified us to look out for the next Mendip Visitor Economy Conference, which takes place on 27th September 2018 at the Swan Hotel in Wells, discussing all things transport and tourism.

Aiming to work with people who are at world class level for a county that he believes should be at a world class level (what do the Wurzels think of that?!), Turner believes that due to the current severe public sector cut-backs, more ownership and responsibility needs to be taken-on in the private sector where massive amounts of innovation can be really demonstrated. 

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