The Role of Place

You can probably pinpoint a place on a map, but can you articulate what that place stands for?

Why do people go there?

How is it perceived?

Who knows its history and when is the best time to go?

The role and the definition of a place is so much more complex than it seems at first sight. And yet a clear definition is so important in everyday business. A place, and what it stands for, serves multiple purposes, whether that be for business investment, tourism growth or workforce attraction. Behind every name is a multi-layered sense of place.

Placemaking in Practice

Out of lockdowns and heralding a tourism renaissance, the hospitality and travel sectors can only now begin to seek answers on the way forward. Some destinations are fully open with almost no restrictions in place, others are simultaneously still behind closed borders or monitoring daily cases of new coronavirus infections. The universal future for the demand and supply of travel remains predictably unclear, but we are in a better position to address the why, and define how, destinations and hospitality can adapt to meet the changes.

The core reason a destination or hospitality business exists hasn’t changed since Covid-19. The way in which consumers interact with it has, which means now is the perfect time to establish or re-evaluate what any place has to offer, why and how that could be marketed, and identify who the potential new visitors could be.

Case Study – Kirklees

The Importance of Public Consultation in Placemaking

In February 2022 the fabl were asked to deliver a tourism strategy and three-year delivery plan for Kirklees. The task was not to create a logo and tagline, the task was to understand the district’s current tourism appeal, and propose how to market it in our new, post lockdown world. Research was required into the perception, identity and reputation of the district, as held by residents and non-residents alike.

To form the basis for our work on the Kirklees Tourism Strategy and three-year delivery plan, we needed to understand the existing landscape. To do so, the fabl created online surveys targeting four key audiences – Kirklees visitors, residents, businesses and students from Kirklees College as well as Huddersfield University. We conducted telephone consultations and 1:1 meetings with all the stakeholders, which included tourism businesses in the district, officers and elected members of the Kirklees Council, business associations, public sector agencies and community groups.

Describe Your Location in Three Words

We asked residents, visitors, businesses and students to describe Kirklees in three words. As you read this, you’ll be forgiven for wondering where Kirklees is. Despite being part of the Leeds City Region and West Yorkshire, and with a population of 440,000 across traditional market towns and villages that make up the district, Kirklees as an area is not well known.

The public consultation exercise verified that Kirklees has an identity challenge, and it’s one that creates an enormous amount of opportunity. The request to describe Kirklees in three words produced responses such as “Where is it?”, “Off the map” and “Waiting to happen”. Concerns around Kirklees not being a physical place are, however, unfounded and can be seen as an opportunity to create an appealing destination brand. Business responses revolved around “Disjointed, Diverse and Potential”. Residents expressed “Community, Landscapes and Culture”, and visitors attributed “Friendly, Historical and Underdeveloped” to their experience.

Examples of where this same challenge has successfully been overcome and changed perceptions is The Cotswolds in Gloucestershire. Cotswold District is named after the wider Cotswolds region. Its main town is Cirencester. Other notable towns include Tetbury, Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold and Chipping Campden.

Looking abroad we can take the example of Alberta, Canada. Alberta represents a province that is also without a physical locator but geographically covers an area where the tourism hotspots of Calgary, Banff, Jasper and the Rocky Mountains can be enjoyed. Each sub-town or region hosts annual cultural events that instil local pride and collectively they attract a healthy visitor economy.

Similarly in Italy, in the South Tyrol region of The Dolomites UNESCO World Heritage site, the sub-region of Alta Badia has created an identity of its own. Successfully incorporating local towns and creating year-round experiences to attract tourism through combined marketing. Towns divided geographically by mountains are unified by events, festivals, print publications and transport initiatives that have instilled a sense of place and pride…and collectively these amplify the many reasons to visit.

What three words would you use to describe where you live?

The foundation for any destination place branding lies in an understanding of how a place is perceived. Those findings will then reveal if the offer resonates with motivations and desires of visitors, residents, businesses and students. A destination has to be appealing as a place to visit, live, work and study.

Click here to learn more about our work for Kirklees Council in creating a tourism strategy and three-year development plan, creating a roadmap to reach their ultimate goal: