South Cambridgeshire District Council: Visit South Cambs website

South Cambridgeshire District Council formed the Business Support and Development team in summer 2020 to provide essential services and impact economic growth across the district. One of their first tasks was to assist in the distribution of government grants throughout the pandemic. The focus progressed to how the council could further help businesses as we emerged from the pandemic, which led to the development and launch of the Visit South Cambs website.

The challenge

South Cambridgeshire is a district that surrounds the city of Cambridge. It is mainly arable with 104 villages and no ‘true’ towns. The district houses some major tourist attractions such as National Trust Wimpole Hall and Duxford Imperial War Museum. Many of the villages have public houses, public access green spaces, and independent accommodation providers.

South Cambridgeshire was not represented online as a ‘tourism’ destination. Almost everyone knows of the city of Cambridge’s university with its Research and Development sectors, and world-renowned science and medical facilities. Because of this, Cambridge has a big draw as a destination for both visitor and commercial tourism. The district of South Cambridgeshire surrounds Cambridge City with good transport links via train, bus, and the guided busway. Around 95 per cent of the businesses within South Cambridgeshire are SMEs with 0-9 employees and many of the villages house public houses and smaller scale activities and attractions. The council wanted to showcase what the district offers and promote the district as an area offering places to stay, activities and attractions, and places to eat, all within a short distance of the city.

The solution

The solution was to design and build a tourism sector website that would serve its purpose in promoting businesses in South Cambridgeshire for both staycation, and visitor/commercial tourism. The initial emphasis was to help support the hospitality and leisure sector businesses across South Cambridgeshire in their recovery from the pandemic, to encourage staycation spend, and support and develop economic growth in the district.

From brand concept to full website design, a 10-week timescale was set by the council to get the website launched in September 2021. Working with the communications team, a marketing campaign was set up which included sending targeted emails to reach businesses in the district to encourage them to list their business on the website and the council also set up social media accounts to help promote brand awareness.

The impact

The website build and development was funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as a provision to support economic recovery from the pandemic. Already the website has 1800 unique users and 12,000 page impressions, and it has generated a healthy and growing following on social media. The team posts topical and engaging content asking followers to give a 'shout out’ to businesses, supporting current events and key dates such as ‘Small Business Saturday’ and ‘National tree week’ and also encourages followers to follow guidance on COVID-19 safety and regulations.

How is the new approach being sustained?

Although owned and supported by South Cambridgeshire District Council, Visit South Cambs is a stand-alone website, managed and run by the Business Support and Development team.

Listings on the website are growing daily. The ‘what’s on’ section is proving popular for both listings and visitors to the site looking for events to attend locally. The next phase of the website development will be to enhance the content further by providing itineraries aimed at specific demographics and interests such as:

  • family fun
  • walkers
  • cyclists
  • nature lovers
  • fitness fanatics
  • green/sustainability.

The final phase of the project will be to explore and instigate ideas to generate revenue and monetise the site. As page impressions grow, the intention is to introduce paid for advertising space and premium spots for listings, alongside sponsorships. The site has been developed with the listings forming the shape of MPUs and banners, which works for advertising.

Lessons learned

Visit South Cambs was a much-needed resource for the businesses within the district, especially given the remote nature of the land, and the need to support economic development and growth within the district – not just from pandemic recovery, but ongoing. Cambridge City will always have a natural ‘pull’ for visitors, but now it has firmly put rural businesses and facilities on the map too.