Lifelong health and wellbeing: Destination FeelGood

Tourism is one of the UK’s most important industries; from staycations to summer breaks, tourism injects millions of pounds into the UK economy every year as holidaymakers descend on British shores in search of some much needed rest and relaxation.

One aspect that more and more holidaymakers are looking for is an element of wellness in their holiday; whether it is windsurfing or yoga, spa treatments or adventure trails – a wellness element can enhance, and often sell, a holiday. Despite tourism being such a booming industry, there are still lessons that can be learned to help boost the British tourism industry, which is where research project Destination FeelGood comes in.

Destination FeelGood engages with businesses to help them improve their wellness offering for holidaymakers. The project works with businesses and shows them how to innovate in market positioning while developing strong competitive local tourism economies. Essentially the project looks to encourage businesses to develop wellness packages or elements that will enhance their ability to provide holidaymakers with the type of holiday they are looking for and, in turn, increase footfall and profits.

The project is being led by a team of academics and students at BU. One such student is Carmen Martins, who is studying for her PhD at BU while working on the project. Carmen says: “My  research specifically is on rural tourism innovation of which wellbeing is a key feature.” Carmen continues: “Through an increased understanding of how wellbeing can ‘sell’ a holiday for  consumers, tourism businesses are well placed to improve their marketing effectiveness, and to develop new products and services that will provide an enhanced experience for visitors to the destination.”

To facilitate the exchange of knowledge, staff from BU’s Faculty of Management, Bournemouth University and theNational Coastal Tourism Academy (NCTA) have beenworking together to develop an integrated programme of activity for businesses across the wider local tourism economy.

The project has been underpinned by research into the tourism industry that has been conducted at Bournemouth University. This research suggests that successful destination marketing may provide the economic impetus to transform local tourism products using wellbeing as a driver for the marketing. The project helps both businesses and destinations to think more carefully about their marketing strategy and how they can better set themselves up to be more attractive to holiday makers seeking rest and relaxation.

Carmen has been working alongside academics such as Professor Heather Hartwell, Professor Adele Ladkin,Professor Ann Hemingway, Professor Stephen Page and Dr Cheryl Willis, as well as the NCTA, to deliver the project as a part of a multidisciplinary team. She says: “Within the team there are tourism academics and health academics and that is what makes the project so unusual. We had support from the Royal Society for Public Health in London. We also had input from students. A number of aspects of the project sought to involve students from Bournemouth University across the tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors to enhance both the project and the student learning experience.”

The project has already had a significant impact for businesses, as Carmen explains: “This project offered the opportunity for connecting different destination stakeholders, with the specific aim of facilitating innovation in healthy lifestyle products while contributing to a competitive local tourism economy. Through inter-stakeholder dialogue, tourism businesses were able to increase their marketing effectiveness, and develop new products and services that would provide an enhanced value-added experience for visitors. The project gave tourism businesses an improved understanding of wellbeing and the confidence to implement this direction within their marketing schema.”

Businesses such as the Sandbanks Hotel and Monty’s Lounge restaurant have been working with the team in ‘ideas cafes’ to come up with ways to innovate and develop more of a wellness offering, as well as looking at ways of promoting this aspect of their business to market to the type of people who find wellness to be an important part of their holiday. Plans are in place to continue to roll the project out across the UK to other businesses and destinations.

Fyall, A., Hartwell, H. & Hemingway, A. (2013) Public Health, Wellbeing and Tourism: Opportunities for the Branding of Tourism Destinations. Tourism Tribune, 28, p16-19.

Hartwell, H., Hemingway, A., Fyall, A., Filimonau, V. and Wall, S. (2012) Tourism engaging with the public health agenda: Can we promote ‘wellville’ as a destination of choice? Public Health 126 (12), p1072-1074

For more information visit www.destinationfeelgood.co.uk or follow @DestinationFG on Twitter.

The research was made possible thanks to funding from the Economic and Social Research Council.

This article appeared in the 2016 Bournemouth Research Chronicle. Download a copy of the magazine, or view the articles online.

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