I intend to revisit the Peak District and Derbyshire. I know the area well, from many forays there. But there is a crisp, clear and energetic new website tempting me back.
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 new, easy-to-navigate 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 particularly 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 dictating 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”. This month it’s Ashbourne. 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, but I’m sure that will come.
I did find one start-up glitch – I couldn’t get the search function to work, some entries haven’t been properly proof-read, and some obvious attractions such as the Buxton Opera House didn’t have a link. When I did find it, I thought the entry 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. But these are small issues, easily put right.
The potential rewards from a well-presented site are considerable. Before the make-over the site had already scored its best-ever results in 2016. 1.3 million people visited it, and there was a big rise in the percentage of people accessing the site on mobile devices such as smartphones (38 per cent) and tablets (23 per cent).
There’s nothing particularly new about the Marketing Peak District & Derbyshire (the area’s tourist board) website’s format. But it did seem to be richer in detail, with 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’ – a name, incidentally, which it is one letter away from you getting it embarrassingly wrong in an online search.
The site offers visitors the opportunity to pin down special offers, such as from accommodation and eating out, and put together their own itinerary, using a new 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.
The website launch (the actual event, not the development of the website itself, which was paid for from Marketing Peak District’s budget) was funded as part of a £1.49 m business support programme paid for by the European Union out of the European Regional Development Fund.
The fund helps areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.
Yet in the 2015 Referendum every council area in Derbyshire voted to leave the EU. The county voted by a clear majority in Derbyshire, taken as a whole. 59.1% voted Leave and 40.9% Remain. Turnout in most areas was above the national average. 81.9% voted in the Derbyshire Dales, the main focus of the website. The closest vote was in High Peak, where 50.5% were in favour of leave.