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Google partners with UKinbound, the BHA and NCTA to launch bespoke digital skills programme to boost British seaside tourism

Published: 01 Mar 2017

Google has partnered with UKinbound, the British Hospitality Association, and National Coastal Tourism Academy to boost visitor numbers on British coasts this summer.

The new digital skills training programme, announced today as part of the Government's new Digital Strategy and Digital Skills Partnership, aims to give businesses and communities in seaside towns the digital skills needed to attract more tourists and grow in the digital economy.

The initiative will offer seaside communities the opportunity to access free face-to-face training, customised to cater for the hospitality and tourism industries which employ 4.5 million people, or 14% of the UK workforce. The BHA, NCTA and UKinbound will work to help inform the bespoke curriculum and promote the initiative. 

A recent survey found that four in five Brits admire the coast for its 'beautiful, unspoilt beaches and coastline with lots of natural beauty" yet more than half of them have not visited the British seaside in the past three years. This signals a real opportunity for hospitality businesses and tourist centres to use the power of online tools to find new visitors, take advantage in the recent boost in 'staycations' and even think about how to encourage more overseas visitors.

However, access to digital skills training is an issue and many popular coastal destinations are at a high risk of digital exclusion with up to 20% of people in some communities having never been online. Moreover, according to the Department for Communities and Local Government's 2015 Index of Multiple Deprivation, nine out of ten of the most deprived neighbourhoods in England are seaside communities.

Ronan Harris, Google Managing Director UK & Ireland, said 'We believe that digital can have a transformative impact, no matter where you live and what your job is. Everyone deserves access to the tools and opportunities the web has to offer and that is why we welcome the Government's timely Digital Strategy which ensures the benefits of the digital economy are spread across the country. We are delighted to be part of the Digital Skills Partnership and excited to expand our current free skills training offered through the Digital Garage with this new initiative in seaside communities."

Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport Karen Bradley said: "Our Digital Strategy sets a path to create a world-leading digital economy that works for everyone, with improving skills at its heart. To do that, we will work closely with businesses and others to make sure the benefits and opportunities are spread across the country.

"The UK tourism industry is thriving and we are committed to helping its success continue. It is increasingly digital, with both visitors and businesses relying more on online tools to market their services and share their experiences, and I am delighted Google has committed to help people in our coastal communities develop their digital skills. Alongside our new Digital Skills Partnership, this pledge will help make sure no one is left behind and everyone can fulfill their potential."

The coastal towns digital skills tour will start in May and will visit at least ten destinations on the British coasts. The programme is part of a multi-million pound Google investment to provide five hours of free digital skills training so that everyone is able to harness the power of digital to find their dream job, launch a new business or discover how to grow their existing business.

An example of a business based in a coastal town that enjoyed huge success after help from Google, is Porthcawl Surf School in South Wales. The owner Hugh Murray has been using online advertising tools to reach out to surfers and expand his business. "It is harder for people who are keen to learn how to surf to know where to start. People who know nothing about surfing start with Google, which means if they're in the Porthcawl area, they have a great chance of finding me and getting in touch" says Hugh.

Ufi Ibrahim, Chief Executive of the British Hospitality Association, said: "The British public want to enjoy the British Seaside, and people living in coastal communities want a thriving local economy. While we recognise the challenges facing many coastal communities, we also know there are fantastic opportunities to boost seaside towns and help even more people enjoy a Great British Seaside holiday. We are delighted to partner with Google to help the industry tap into digital opportunities, reach more potential visitors from both the UK and overseas and turn the tide of coastal economies."

Deirdre Wells, Chief Executive, UKinbound, said: "We fully support and welcome this initiative from Google. Our tourism industry is worth over £22 billion to the UK economy and is going from strength to strength. However with over 50% of international visitors currently only going to London, UKinbound is keen to ensure that the benefits of tourism are spread across the UK. Travellers are becoming more and more digitally connected and so investing in digital skills in our coastal areas will go a long way to helping us achieve this objective."

Samantha Richardson, Academy Director at the National Coastal Tourism Academy, said: "The coast is the most visited overnight holiday destination for UK residents but has a significant unrealised potential. Digital skills can be a real barrier to growth for some small businesses and this welcome investment from google will go a long way to help small businesses enhance their digital skills and ensure that they remain competitive in a global marketplace."

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