National TV adverts will be broadcast from March to attract more people to Essex and challenge TOWIE stereotypes.
Essex County Council and its tourism arm Visit Essex has been redrawing the way it markets the county- and its £3.4billion tourism industry since 2019 – to focus more closely at Essex’s wide ranging diversity.
Lisa Bone, strategic tourism manager at Essex County Council, told the authority’s Place Services and Economic Growth Policy and Scrutiny Committee on January 10 that stereotypes, including those popularised in TOWIE, will remain the default if they are not challenged through effective marketing.
The campaign has already included a promotional film staring Michelin-starred chefs and a scientist to promote the county.
But now viewers on Sky can expect to see further TV advertising from March aimed at increasing level of awareness of the county further.
Ms Bone said in the meeting: “There’s lots of talk about the way that the media talks about Essex but in my opinion if we don’t tell them what we want them to say about us then they’re always going to talk about this in a certain way. So we need to give them that new narrative.
“It’s very much about trying to challenge the stereotypes to get people to think about Essex in a slightly different way and much more than in the context of just visiting, but about positioning Essex because it’s a great place, not just to visit but also to live work and invest.”
The tourism team launched a Coastal Essex film along with a microsite highlighting the country’s extensive 350-mile coastline in May.
Other PR strategies that have been launched to promote Essex include Gourmet Garden Trails, Break Away Form the Crowds and Make Memories Close to Home.
In 2022 The tourism team, in addition to TV advertising, plan a campaign for another Essex Big Weekend – in which tourist attractions, venues, restaurants, experiences and destinations offer complimentary tickets or a special experience for visitors – and a food and drink campaign with films, trails and a focus on local produce use.
Figures show that COVID badly affected tourism in Essex – with £1.6bn generated from the sector in 2020 compared to £3.5bn in 2019.
Ms Bone said: “Anecdotally we heard the that businesses had a better year last year – 60 percent of businesses said that this year they are seeing forward bookings at a level that they were expecting and 70 percent said that they had a better autumn last year than they were expecting.
“So we are seeing a slight increase in those numbers and we’re hopeful for the future.”
Visit England’s consumer sentiment tracker has revealed coastal destinations and the countryside are high on people’s most favoured destinations.
She said: “These are destinations which are obviously what we have in abundance and the East of England is moving up quite rapidly.
“So I think we were somewhere around eighth place to visit. We’re now fourth after London, the south west and Yorkshire. So there’s certainly interest in the region.”