Association is blazing a trail overseas

The South West Coast Path Association is leading the way in promoting the region as a top tourism destination and putting the South West Coast Path National Trail on the international tourism map.

In just 9 months, after the charity was successful in its bid to Visit England for a share of the Government’s £40 million Discover England Fund, it has developed a range of new walking holidays in partnership with the region’s tourism businesses and showcased them at international trade events in Germany and the Netherlands.

In addition, a new website has been developed to drive visitors for more information and is available in English, German and Dutch. It includes video, PDF downloads and a mobile phone app. The project titled, ‘Discover England’s South West Coast Path’ has been supported by a public relations campaign delivered in the targeted countries and press and bloggers have been hosted on visits to sample the itineraries for themselves, all of which has resulted in media coverage worth millions in PR terms.

Its aim was to encourage all year-round visits, outside the peak holiday season and specifically targeted Dutch and German visitors. This sought to address the seasonal peaks and troughs that tourism business experience quite dramatically in the South West. This causes problems to businesses in their need to scale up and down quickly and 94% of businesses responding to the Association’s Business Survey in 2015 reported that the seasonal nature of tourism had the largest impact on the profitability of their business.

The Association saw an opportunity to lessen this impact by encouraging more international visitors, many of whom enjoy the peace and quiet of travelling out of peak season according to Visit England research. It shows that German and Dutch visitors make up the majority of overseas visitors to the region. It also identified that the coast and countryside of the South West is the most popular content that international tourists consume on its website, with history and heritage close behind. What was previously lacking was the information about how to get here and experience the South West Coast Path, which at 630 miles, taking in four diverse counties and coastlines, makes it difficult for tourists to know where to begin.

This demand has been met by improving the information available to help visitors explore the coast of the South West and make it easier to book. The Association led on the development of 6 themed walking itineraries in partnership with the region’s Destination Marketing Organisations, all of which feature active, historical and cultural breaks, including those at locations of the World Heritage sites in Dorset and East Devon and West Cornwall.

Working with tour operators in the region has made it easier for visitors to book a walking holiday on the Coast Path, with the accommodation and walks provided as a package. Independent travellers can book direct with businesses listed alongside walks on the main South West Coast Path website and included in its annual ‘Complete Guide’ to walking it.

One business in North Devon recently took to Twitter to comment:

“Whoever is promoting the Coast Path abroad, take a bow. We’re receiving more visitors every day. Job well done.”

Damon Willcox of Encounter Walking Holidays based in Cornwall said:

“We deal with a large number of German walkers – it’s around 12% of our market and their feedback on the Coast Path is always very positive. So we are very keen on having more German (and Swiss) walkers.”

Esther Pearson, Director of the Association said:

"There are a number of ways businesses can benefit from this overseas marketing activity, one of which is to become a business member of the Association and have your tourism business listed alongside some of the walks on our website. They all link to the nearby places to eat, sleep, drink and do."

Some of these walks are included in the suggested itineraries being promoted within the following 5 themed areas of Coast Path: 

The Wilderness Coast – Exmoor, Minehead to Coombe Martin

The Coast of Legends – North Devon and Cornwall, Clovelly to Tintagel

The Wild West Coast: Tin mining industry and story of Poldark – Mounts Bay to St Ives

The Nautical Coast – South Devon, Plymouth to Dartmouth

The Timeless Coast - Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site – Charmouth to Seaton

The South West Coast Path attracts 8.6 million visitors from within the UK and attracts £500 million in tourism spend every year, playing an important part in sustaining coastal economies. Tourism businesses are already benefitting from the natural coastal asset through domestic tourism and with a heightened interest from overseas, they are set to see an increase in visits all year round.

Information about the project is available on the Association’s website at

Discover England’s South West Coast Path project was delivered alongside a number of partners including, Visit CornwallSouth West Tourism AllianceJurassic Coast World Heritage SiteVisit DevonVisit DorsetEnglish Riviera Tourist Company and Exmoor National Park.

Published on: July 8, 2017