Shaftesbury can’t rest on its laurels. OK, we’ve had visitors from 89 countries and territories across the world but look at the map! We need to step up marketing to central Asia and Africa – and our efforts to woo visitors from the Indian sub-continent have frankly failed to get off the ground.
Large countries such as Cambodia, Croatia and Indonesia could all do with a bit of love. Still, visitors from Namibia, Brunei, Panama and Iran have all had the pleasure of Shaftesbury: let’s hope they’ve raved to all their friends.
How do we know this? It’s not sophisticated digital research, no app has been involved nor have Facebook profiles been raided. The answer is in the town’s Tourist Information Office (TIC) – look up, to where the walls meet the ceiling.
“The first person to come in when we opened about 10 years ago was from Canada, then we had Australia, New Zealand, Sweden and Japan,” says David Taylor, the TIC’s manager.
“The flags aren’t there to decorate the place. As each visitor comes in, we ask where they are from – if they are the first from their country, we print off the flag and put it on the wall.
“Every flag you see is a nationality that has been to Shaftesbury, so we know how widespread around the world the image of Shaftesbury has been. A lot of people look for their flag – if it’s not there, we’ll put it up.”
As you would expect, most overseas visitors that have come in numbers are from across Europe and the Commonwealth countries. And David says that it is only in the last year that they have included tourists from Ecuador, the Falkland Islands and Venezuela.
The broadening international appeal of the town and surrounds was undoubtedly boosted by Shaftesbury Tourism launching its Facebook and Instagram platforms in 2017: Gold Hill and Durdle Door are the most popular images from Dorset on Instagram.
Visitors account for 40% of people using the TIC, the rest being locals making use of a range of services, including Shaftesbury Arts Centre tickets and the ability to collect a parcel or pay a utilities bill.
And, let’s be honest, not every visitor to Shaftesbury will use the TIC, so there may be many other nationalities who have stood at the top of Gold Hill. Maybe you are someone from Mali or Mongolia who has that photo. Do let us know.
- Territories, crown dependencies and islands not showing on the map – but where visitors have travelled to Shaftesbury from – are the Aland Islands, Bermuda, Gibraltar, Guernsey, Isle of Man, Jersey and St Vincent & The Grenadines.