Driving tourism with Town & City Gift Cards

How places around the world are using local gift cards to drive tourism recovery

Tourism – one of the sectors most impacted by the pandemic and also one of the sectors that is most valuable to the economy. In the UK, tourism contributed nearly £74 billion to the economy in 2019, supporting 1.7 million jobs and 230,000 SMEs. Ireland welcomed 11.3 million overseas visitors in the same year, generating €5.9 billion and sustaining 325,000 jobs. Tourism recovery plans are vital to helping the tourism industry to grow and thrive post pandemic. And in many of our towns and cities, that is exactly what is happening as places utilise their Town & City Gift Card program to drive tourism recovery. Here’s how:

Attracting visitors

Britain’s tourism industry is set to be worth £257 billion by 2025, just under 10% of UK GDP and supporting 11% of UK jobs – 3.8 million. As visitor numbers increase, places are positioning their town/city to benefit from this influx, such as in St Ives which introduced the St Ives Gift Card in March 2023. St Ives has a population of 10,000 and is heavily reliant on tourism. Approximately 5 million people visit St Ives each year and around 15% of those visit St Ives for the day or overnight.

Sarah Hooper, BID Manager at St Ives BID, said: “Encouraging even a small percentage increase in visitor numbers to St Ives through our gift card, and giving people the means to immerse themselves in the full range of products and services in St Ives, will have a significant impact on our economy.”

Positioning as a tourist destination

In Ireland, the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation suggests that tourism can grow to €8.1 billion annually employing a further 80,000 people. And it’s not only the more established tourist destinations that are using Town & City Gift Cards to drive tourists. In Carndonagh, they are using their Carndonagh Gift Card as a way to promote the town as a tourist destination in its own right.

Davin Doherty of the Carndonagh Traders Association said: “Carndonagh is the gateway to Ireland’s most northerly point, Malin Head, which attracts 200,000 visitors each year. At the moment, these tourists are driving through Carndonagh but it’s our mission to make the town a destination in itself using the Carndonagh Gift Card.”

Showcasing a region

Encouraging visitors and growing the visitor economy is the remit of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) with many regions choosing Town & City Gift Cards as a means to demonstrate the breadth of activities and experiences across a vast area. In 2022, West Lancashire Council introduced the Enjoy West Lancs Gift Card, and Destination Lincolnshire introduced the Lincolnshire Gift Card, as a means to showcase their region’s enticing offering:  

Charlotte Goy, Chief Executive at Destination Lincolnshire, said: “Once loaded with funds the gift card can be used in countless businesses across the county, making it as easy as possible to experience the very best, award-winning businesses Lincolnshire has to offer. It’s a positive way to encourage residents and visitors to spend money locally as part of a day trip, special treat or holiday.”

Leveraging funding for sector specific support

The pandemic devastated the tourism industry with many traditional campaigns unable to go ahead. On Prince Edward Island, Canada’s smallest province, Food Island Partnership used their Miconex backed Canada’s Food Island Gift Card to drive accommodation sales in the shoulder season. 5000 gift cards were made available to 30 of the Island’s accommodation providers at 40% discount, leveraging government funding. Their second campaign was a Stay 2 Get $100 campaign where consumers received a $100 gift card with a stay of 2 consecutive nights, benefiting multiple sectors.

Crystal MacGregor, Director of Marketing and Communications at Food Island Partnership, said: One of the top three benefits we had with the Canada’s Food Island Gift Card was increasing incremental consumer spend, up to about 25%. It also increased Canada’s Food Island brand awareness and engagement with consumers, reinforcing that Prince Edward Island truly is a premier culinary destination. Finally, it helped with the covid-19 recovery, to ensure we were able to support local businesses here in the Island.”

Year round support

As an industry, tourism is susceptible to seasonality but many places are using their Town & City Gift Card to drive tourism year round, such as Brighton, who introduced the Brighton Gift Card in 2023. Brilliant Brighton BID partnered with Brighton based Tillo on the gift card in a first of its kind collaboration to drive local spend in the city.

Gavin Stewart, CEO at Brilliant Brighton, said: “Our city welcomes 9.5 million day visitors each year. The gift card will encourage people to really experience all that Brighton has to offer through, even extending their stays to overnight, keeping Brighton thriving and attractive as a destination throughout the year.”

A curated experience

By its definition, a tourist is a visitor to a place that has an objective to explore and experience what that place has to offer. To that end, tourists will research hotels, restaurants and attractions as part of their stay. As Town & City Gift Cards can be used with all types and sizes of businesses in a particular place they offer visitors a curated experience of what’s on offer in that place, with limited research investment on their part.

Jack Walker, head of marketing at Rand Farm Park, said: “Lincolnshire is one of the biggest counties in the UK and has so much to offer. What’s great about the Lincolnshire Gift Card is that it gathers local Lincolnshire businesses together behind one gift card, giving visitors places to stay, things to do and places to eat, drink and shop, without any research needed.”

A warm welcome

Accommodation providers are key to making a place attractive to visitors, from Airbnb holiday rentals to boutique hotels, campsites to B&B’s. Many accommodation providers will give welcome baskets to guests with local treats, but as personal preferences diverge even further, finding a one-size-fits-all approach can be a challenge. A key reason for St Ives BID introducing the St Ives Gift Card was to give accommodation providers an easy way to introduce visitors to St Ives in place of traditional welcome packs, and the means to get out exploring their local area.

Partnering with key visitor attractions

The UK is home to some of the UK’s most exciting tourist attractions, including arts and cultural venues. Places are using their Town & City Gift Card to further their partnership with top visitor attractions in their area, making their tourism offering through the card useful and appealing for all types of visitors, including home-town tourists, day-trippers and overnight guests. Examples include V&A Dundee which is part of the Dundee Gift Card, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum which is part of the Glasgow Gift Card, Edinburgh Castle which is part of the Edinburgh Gift Card and Tate St Ives which is part of the St Ives Gift Card.

Katharine Walker, Head of Strategy & Business Planning at Tate St Ives, said: “What could be better than giving someone a gift of the St Ives experience, a place that has for centuries welcomed and inspired artists from around the globe? As one of the key visitor attractions in the town, Tate St Ives is delighted to be part of the new gift card helping to support the local economy.”

Using Town & City Gift Cards to drive tourism in your town, city or region

The opportunities for using Town & City Gift Cards to drive tourism are diverse, with many avenues still to be explored. To discuss ideas for using Town & City Gift Cards to drive tourism in your area, get in touch with us today.


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