Behind the Scenes: Bridging the gap between tourism and culture

Behind the Scenes: Bridging the gap between tourism and culture

By Laura Mulhern


Laura Mulhern, arts marketer for Dorset Moon and AMA member, takes us through how three festivals in Dorset came together for the first time to  produce a joint festival - Dorset Moon. Featuring Luke Jerram's internationally acclaimed Museum of the Moon a key objective of the collaboration was to bridge the gap between tourism and culture.

As a county, Dorset is rich in culture and heritage.  Its landscape – coastal and rural – inspires artists and artistry of all kinds and supports a thriving tourism industry. Stunning scenery, magnificent coast and fabulous beaches provide a inspiring backdrop for the many arts and heritage festivals that take place in the county throughout the year. Every festival transforms the landscape with exceptional experiences – a big attraction for the cultural tourist.

Culture and heritage is the most important part of Britain's tourism offering, touching every visitors' trip to Britain. VisitBritain estimates that culture and heritage attracts £4.5bn worth of spending by inbound visitors which underpins more than 100,000 jobs. The synergy between the two sectors – both seek to attract an audience, both create exceptional memories, both seek to retain and develop a visitor base – is clear.

This year Dorset’s Arts Development Company, a CIC tasked with developing the arts as an economic driver, has identified a perfect opportunity to nurture new partnerships between the cultural and tourism sectors.  It aims to discover new ways of working together for the economic benefit of both, and for the county as a whole. Through its Culture+ programme, which works to improve the local arts economy through business development, the Arts Development Company has commissioned Dorset Moon, a new signature event in partnership with three established arts festivals from the county - Inside Out Dorset (produced by Activate), b-side and Arts by the Sea Bournemouth.

Museum of the Moon - a fantastic, seven-metre diameter internally-illuminated sculpture of the moon.  It will land in three locations across Dorset from 28 June – 14 July, as a free event for all ages to enjoy.  It will however also act as a test bed for the festivals to work together for the first time in producing a new event, and encourage engagement with existing and new audiences.

One of Dorset Moon’s key objectives is to develop new relationships with the tourism industry to bring new visitors into the county. The positive economic impact of free events that centre around internationally acclaimed objects was recently seen in Dorset as the county was the first location to host ‘Dippy the Dinosaur’. In 2018 over 150,000 people came to the county town of Dorchester to see the Natural History Museum’s ‘Dippy’ in the County Museum, with a visitor spend of £2.2 million – read the full report here.  Not bad for a dinosaur.  And now Dorset has three moon landings!

To maximise the opportunity – Dorset Moon is fully funded through England’s Arts Council and Europe’s Regional Development Fund - the project is reaching out to all local businesses to make the most of the event by actively joining in with the campaign. The centre of the activity will be the three specific locations, each chosen to test how such a festival affects the local economy.  Businesses in Bournemouth (urban), Sherborne (rural) and Weymouth (coastal) will be evaluated accordingly; but the overall economic impact is expected to be much wider.

Jacky Thorne, the Arts Development Company’s Culture+ Tourism Lead says:

By working together, we can encourage increased spending in local attractions, shops, cafes, restaurants and more! How? by promoting the three venue towns as fantastic places visit, stay – and spend money. Local businesses are stronger together – so by using our digital marketing pack we aim to help businesses get creative and team up to promote each other throughout the campaign.

To encourage participation, local businesses can access a range of digital assets for free via the Dorset Moon website, to download and use for their own marketing purposes. They can also sign up to a weekly newsletter to highlight ways to create lunar-inspired packages for their customers and guests.

The Dorset Moon project is also exploring new ways to reach audiences through a specific marketing strategy.


Museum of the Moon. © Robert Sils

As well as employing traditional methods, the strategy has a strong digital push, not only through the digital marketing pack for businesses but by working with brand influencers to help spread the word to a much wider audience. By working with recognised travel blogger Emily Luxton for example it is hoped to encourage new audiences, audiences who will then discover the Dorset landscape and everything it has to offer and audiences who will then enjoy the landscapes and return.

Furthermore, by encouraging local businesses, visitors and local residents alike to share images of the event using the #DorsetMoon hashtag these images will be seen on the Dorset Moon website homepage, acting as the main gallery for the county to share the campaign together.

The results of Dorset Moon will be interesting.

In the future, will Dorset’s tourism businesses engage with cultural festivals in a new and  different way, partnering in marketing and developing audiences?  Will arts organisations gain a new understanding of how they are a vital part of the tourism sector?  Will new visitors, attracted by a free cultural event, spend more, stay longer and return?

We will have to wait and see.

Laura Mulhern

Dorset Moon is commissioned by The Arts Development Company part of Culture+, produced by Dorset Consortium; Inside Out Dorset (Activate), b-side, Bournemouth Arts by the Sea. Funded by European Regional Development Fund and Arts Council England.

For more information about Dorset Moon visit


Resource type: Case studies | Published: 2019