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.