Google has launched a multi-million pound digital skills programme to help British seaside towns attract more tourists.
The search giant will give small businesses, tourist centres and locals in seaside towns free, bespoke training and face-to-face mentorship from Google experts.
Partnerships will be formed with British Hospitality Association, National Coastal Tourism Academy and UKinbound in a bid to boost visitor numbers on British coasts this summer.
The move comes as part of the British government’s Digital Strategy and Digital Skills partnership and is designed to help the hospitality and tourism industries which employ 4.5m people, 14% of the UK workforce.
Ronan Harris, Google’s 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.”
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.”
Deirdre Wells, chief executive, UKinbound, said: “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 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.”
A recent survey by Columbus Direct 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 year.
That, they said, 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 think about how to encourage more overseas visitors.
Secretary of State for culture, media and sport, Karen Bradley, said: “The UK tourism industry is thriving and we are committed to helping its success continue. I am delighted Google has committed to help people in our coastal communities develop their digital skills. 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. Experts will give businesses five hours of free digital skills training.