Underground Sussex

Growing the value of tourism in West Sussex – a report identifying options for delivering tourism growth through collaboration for the Coastal West Sussex Partnership.

A collaborative approach between Adam Bates, Bruce Nairne, David Howells and Richard Wolfstrome, the report set out to investigate and make suggestions to help the region increase its tourism offer.

The Coastal West Sussex Area Partnership commissioned Venues Advisor Ltd to lead a study to identify the challenges and opportunities for growing the Coastal West Sussex visitor economy.

Specifically, the study sought to identify:

• New Market Opportunities

• New Product Development Opportunities

• New Organisational Opportunities, in which the public and private sectors could better collaborate to improve how tourism is co-ordinated and promoted.

It built upon the work of the West Sussex Independent Economic Commission, which made recommendations to enable West Sussex County Council and its partners to improve the performance of the West Sussex economy and its approach to supporting sustainable economic growth across the county, which involved focusing on key sectors of the economy and promoting the county as a great place to live, work and visit.

The intention was for the project to ‘think big’ in terms of opportunities and ideas and this was reflected within the report. The conclusions and recommendations provided realistic steps towards a wider ambition for Coastal West Sussex and the findings provide stepping stones to achieve those ambitions.

The report contained some specific and costed options and actions that, if developed, would make a substantial difference to the economic performance of the visitor economy in Coastal West Sussex.

The core idea that would engage with visitors and local communities alike and one that allowed for easy updating and stakeholder/partner flexibility is the thinking behind Underground Sussex.

People like trails and what Underground Sussex proposed is the creation of the region’s own ‘underground’ map – the word ‘underground’, here, being used to denote someone who is adventurous and possibly of one that is ‘in the know’.

The play on the word ‘underground’ would be seen as a fun element – an expression with a twist – and one that would be memorable. People like maps and especially metro (tube) maps and the campaigns’ success would rely on good strategy and well-designed ‘joined-up-thinking’ communication material.

A very nice consequence of the Underground Sussex name is that the acronym spells US and so we could play with campaign phrases that might include ‘Come visit US’, for example.

The design of the map shows a series of trails – subject and theme specific – that join up places across the region. These trails are ‘border-less’ moving across the different regions and places to create a sense of regional solidarity.

Underground Sussex would be a framework for places and regions to subscribe and it is important that each place retains it’s own identity. The Underground Sussex model would easily allow this and would also have the advantage of supporting smaller less-well known places, by those that are more well-known, as visitors begin to explore and look in more detail around a specific destination place.

We would imagine that beyond the ‘mainline’ map, there would be a series of smaller networks spurring off destination hubs.

As one would expect the campaign would be integrated across all media types – print (leaflets, brochure, books), web and a mobile app. The flexible nature of the format and the technology means that maps and trails can be easily updated and for the user he/she can filter or create their own bespoke version as well.

Building communities through existing social networks, creating galleries and allowing reviews would help in raising awareness and engagement and may even lead to visitors/communities creating their own trails – ‘Afternoon for the young family’ for instance.

GPS mobile app technology would allow users to pinpoint where they are, and what is nearby, as well a useful potential wayfinding tool. It may also allow opportunities for places and/or retail to offer special deals if presented with an app ‘voucher’.

Visuals demonstrate the idea by showing indicitive designs.