US visitors want ‘sight-doing not sight-seeing’

Tourism businesses should develop “immersive, unique experiences” to attract more US visitors, according to the Mayflower 400 UK project manager.

Speaking at the Nottinghamshire Visitor Economy Summit on Monday (June 18), Emma Tatlow said the project’s research into the US market revealed that the “pursuit of real” is the overarching trend.

“They want ‘sight-doing not sight-seeing’,” she told delegates at the Nottingham Contemporary gallery.

“About 80% of those interested in coming to England for Mayflower 2020 want talks and lectures.”

She said the Pilgrim Roots region in Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire was looking at running a lecture series in 2020, and a Nottingham-based guide Richard Brackenbury, of Brackenbury’s Britain, is already running Mayflower-themed tours.

Furthermore, she said marketing efforts by the Mayflower 400 UK consortium have resulted in tour packages of Pilgrim sites across England that can be booked by US holidaymakers.

Fam trips, press trips and attendance at travel trade shows helped the marketing partnership to promote English destinations associated with the Pilgrims’ story, ahead of the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower ship.

Tatlow said a fam trip for Kuoni last year has resulted in a Kuoni Mayflower 400 tour going live in the next couple of months.

“We also have tours on sale with Tours International, which sells to the US market – offering seven- and 10-night tours – and Reformation Tours, a religious operator,” she told delegates.

“The tours showcase the Pilgrims’ story around England. The fam trips have given tour operators first-hand experience.”

The Mayflower 400 project has been working since 2014 to highlight the upcoming anniversary, to boost visitor numbers and develop volunteer programmes and cultural activities.

The commemoration year begins in December 2019, with the Illuminate festival in 11 destinations across England, plus partner destinations in the US and Leiden in the Netherlands.

During 2020, there will be activities each month, including cultural and community-led events.

The anniversary of the sailing is September 16, 2020, and Plymouth plans a two-week programme of international events.

Tatlow highlighted how it is tricky for US visitors to navigate around England and see some of the sites associated with the Pilgrims, so it is important that destinations and attractions work with the travel trade to create itineraries and bookable packages and experiences.

The project also hopes to develop tour guides through sharing best practice and networks, and plans a tour guide conference in autumn 2018.

Pictured: St Wilfrid’s Church in Scrooby, Nottinghamshire, which is part of the Mayflower Pilgrim Roots region.