Promoting a destination through a website has been obligatory for some time, if the place wants to attract today’s web-savvy travellers. But now we are into the second and third generation of tourism websites, and the astute browsing prospective visitor can recognise what is good and fresh, and what stays dull and dated.
The most attractive relaunches I have seen are simple, direct and uncomplicated. It is the model Google Maps follows. They tell you what is available at a particular location, and how far other attractions are from where you are now. Tourism websites have to offer as much.
For example the Visit Peak District website – “moors and dales, rivers, springs and caverns and at the heart of it, the Peak District National Park” – includes a ‘What’s Nearby’ section, showing how far accommodation and other businesses are from key attractions. I like the clear list of clickable subject headings at the bottom of each page. I welcomed, too, the “recently viewed” section, listing the things I had have been looking at.
The “Ideas and inspiration” section led me to “5 Local Beers To Try”. There are clear links to such attractions as the ancient art of well dressing, unique to the Peak District. I found the original Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop – not “tart”, please note. And links to the grand houses – notably Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall – and landscape features, including Kinder Scout, Mam Tor, Stanage Edge, The Roaches, Dovedale, Winnats Pass and Kinder Scout where the famous Mass Trespass of 1932 influenced the National Parks legislation in 1949.
Websites cannot disguise some essential truths, such as how long it’s been since an administrator last checked through the whole site, added fresh ideas and inspiration, and brought it up to date, deleting references to events that have been and gone.
And refreshed the blog. In 15 or 20 minutes anyone in the office who has a grasp of the breaking tourism news in the locality should be capable, with a standard dictation programme, of writing a 300 or 400 word article. It doesn’t have to be Patrick Leigh Fermor standard.
However this site was bang up-to-date when I looked at it, with two January entries including one on “Six top calorie-burning exercises for landscape lovers”.
The blog features a “Town of the Month”. Ashbourne featured. Here I found a favourite of mine, the Tissington Trail, a 13 miles route on the old railway line from Ashbourne to Parsley Hay. I could’ve done with a bit more background, and a clear indication of where the trail actually starts.
I thought the entry on the Buxton Opera House didn’t do this venerable place justice. I have a particular affection for this splendid 1903 building, having attended the opening night, after it was refurbished, in 1979.
There was a wide suggestion of activities, events and the good places to eat and drink, with good links to external sites such as the Eroica Britannia – ‘The World’s Most Handsome Bike Ride’. The site offers visitors the opportunity to pin down special offers, from accommodation and eating out, and put together their own itinerary, using a planning tool.
Maintaining destination websites, and keeping them up-to-date, is expensive (although cheaper, surely, than handing and posting out leaflets and booklets) and requires a regular input by staff.