Sustainable tourism product development and marketing: experiential tourism to extend the visitor season in the French-English channel

This project contributes to realise the potential of common natural and cultural assets to deliver innovative and sustainable growth in the French-English Channel (FCE) region. 

Start date

1 January 2020


3 years

Application deadline

Funding source

EU Interreg Experience

Funding information

The amount allocated for this scholarship is £14,500 per year for three years, to cover fees and stipend, plus all travel and data collection expenses are covered by the project.


This project contributes to realise the potential of common natural and cultural assets to deliver innovative and sustainable growth in the French-English Channel (FCE) region. You will contribute to a €23.5m Interreg funded project to reduce seasonality in the Oct-March period by supporting the development of experiential, sustainable tourism offer that improves the economy, contributes to healthy communities and preserves the environment. Your particular role will be to provide support to public and private sector agents to sustainable product design and marketing, in English and French: you will conduct a training needs analysis, evaluate the current product offer, prepare training materials, support the delivery of training, and test and advice on the quality of products developed, including the use of our digital lab to test customer responses. 

The FCE region currently uses a destination-based tourism approach based on conventional, mass-market locations during peak season. Modern travellers are losing interest this type of holiday. Experiential tourism is a growing travel trend based on regional uniqueness. Travellers seek off-the-beaten path, ‘live like a local’ authentic experiences throughout the year. Regions inside and outside the EU have shifted from destination-based approaches to successfully harness this new experiential trend to extend the season. The FCE region is not popular with experiential travellers despite abundant potential. Current offer does not target the off-season or meet modern expectations, limiting competitiveness in the global tourism market.

To break the cycle and successfully extend the season, EXPERIENCE will develop a new tourism strategy to tackle all the challenges at once. We will capitalise on successes with experiential tourism observed in other countries. We will apply this to the FCE region to attract off-season visitors. The new strategy is composed of 5 delivery plans designed to break existing tourism convention and bring global innovation in season extension to our region. We will:

  • Unite and train traditional (tourism offices) and atypical actors (foresters / artisans) to recognise unique regional tourism selling points
  • Create new off-season tourism offer, harnessing regional selling points to create exciting itineraries
  • Adapt regional summer tourism infrastructure for off-season use
  • Promote the FCE region for experiential tourism October - March
  • Ensure offer is demand-driven for continued off-season visitors growth in FCE region

With a budget over €23m, we will test the strategy across 6 pilot regions (Brittany, Pas-de-Calais, Compiègne, Norfolk, Kent, Cornwall) each with diverse characteristics representative of other FCE regions and wider.

You will contribute to deliver the following work packages:

WP1 - Build collaboration between pilot study region stakeholders and grow skills & confidence to meet experiential tourism demand 

  • A1 - Co-development Collaboration workshops; Tourism Lab - relationship development and maintenance; Delivery plans for actor engagement and training 
  • A2 - Develop networks Local/regional active engagement events with pilot study actors; Pilot study regional networks
  • A3 - Skills audit and training Skills audit and training needs analysis; Targeted, bespoke training materials and services.

WP2 - Activate natural and cultural assets for experiential tourism

  • A1 - Co-development Collaboration workshops; Tourism lab - experiential product development; Delivery plan to activate unique off-season regional tourism value
  • A2 - New tourism products services Off-season tourism options analysis; Develop new off-season tourism activities.

WP4 - Product Marketing and Distribution 

  • A1 - Co-development Collaboration workshops; Tourism lab - developing a digital presence;  Delivery plan for off-season experiential tourism marketing and distribution 
  • A2 - Market testing Market testing with trade and distribution channels;  Consumer testing; Testing new offer and services in a digital lab.  

Your PhD supervisory team is made up of Dr Christine Lundberg, Dr Alkmini Gkritzali and Dr Alector Ribeiro. The University of Surrey Principal Investigator for this project is Prof Xavier Font.

We envisage this to be a PhD by publication, whereby you shall co-author three journal articles with your supervisory team during the project duration.

Eligibility criteria

The scholarship is open to UK and EU students.

You will need a First class degree or taught postgraduate (distinction).

English language requirements: IELTS overall score of 7.0 or above with a minimum of 6.5 in each component (or equivalent).

Speaking and writing fluently in both English and French is essential.

Please note that you will be required to engage with the project partners in, and travel regularly to, the six regions of the project: Brittany, Pas-de-Calais, Compiègne, Norfolk, Kent, Cornwall. All travel and data collection expenses are covered by the project.

How to apply

Applications should be sent through the Hospitality and Tourism Management course page.

Applicants will need to clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on their application.

Interviews are expected to take place towards the end of November 2019.

Hospitality and Tourism Management

Application deadline

Contact details

Xavier Font
04 AP 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 684290

Research group:

Sustainability and Wellbeing Group

Seasonality is a difficult and complex challenge to address. Impacts include lower visitor numbers, lower visitor spend, reduced employment and lower admission rates to attractions. This imbalance is seen in 6 pilot regions:

  • Cornwall 3,285,000 (73% visitors Apr-Sept). 1,215,000 (27% visitors Oct-Mar). Tourism worth £1.9 bn, supporting 44,000 jobs yet one of poorest EU regions
  • Pas-de-Calais 368,545 (66%). 125,305 (33%). Shorter stays and lower occupancy rates in off-season (1 night vs. 1 week in summer)
  • Brittany (Morlaix & Côtes d’Armor) 2,828,700 (84%), 538,800 (16%). 40% of accommodation is campsites, closed Oct-Mar. 90% of all visitors arrive by car
  • Compiègne 186,481 (55%), 31,702 (45%). Only 6% of visitors are foreign despite proximity to Paris airports/Eurostar
  • Norfolk 26,157,040 (56%), 20,551,960 (44%). Visitors to heritage assets drop by 35% Oct-Mar
  • Kent 35,733,500 (55%), 29,236,500 (45%). Only 31% of visitors to England visit outside of London yet they seek heritage (81%) and countryside (78%).

Previous tourism initiatives have only tackled 1 or 2 challenges. This does not have lasting impact on visitor numbers. To break the cycle of seasonality and compete in the global tourism market, we must develop a new tourism strategy to tackle all of these challenges at the same time. This is the only way to secure lasting growth in visitors Oct-Mar. Real change requires substantial investment and innovation towards each challenge. EXPERIENCE will address C1-5 simultaneously at 6 FCE pilot sites.

The new strategy is composed of 5 delivery plans:

WP1 targets C1: we will unite traditional and atypical actors: SMEs, Very Small Businesses (VSBs), cultural sites, networks and associations (campsite owners, artisans, museums, chambers of commerce, Gîtes de France). We enable actors to understand and develop their unique tourism potential. This very innovative approach has not been applied in the territory

WP1 targets C2: we will identify skills gaps and create bespoke training to target needs of regional actors. We support actors to collect and use data to inform business plans. We provide bespoke business support and mentorship adapted to help traditional and atypical actors to understand trend expectations and meet demand. Cutting-edge branding and customer satisfaction techniques are applied to tourism e.g. trend books: inspirational visuals, key words, target group attributes allowing actors to respond to future change

WP2 targets C3: we will use the unique tourism potential of traditional and atypical actors and assets to develop competitive new tourism activities Oct-Mar. Wild mushroom foraging, followed by an open-fire cooking lesson, complimented by a moonlight classical music concert will be packaged into themed itineraries (e.g. Go Wild). We develop 1500 new tourism activities unique to Oct-Mar, 6 new off-season events and 600 themed experiential itineraries for different durations to increase length of stay (long weekend, 1-14 nights). 33% of itineraries will be disabled-friendly

WP3 targets C4: we will adapt key tourism infrastructure and create access for Oct-Mar visitors combining functionality with iconic tourism landmarks. We will create luminous paths inspired by local artists (Van Gogh example in Netherlands) and exciting accommodation in heritage lighthouses to compliment WP2 itineraries

WP4 targets C5: we will use cutting-edge techniques to concept-test itineraries on consumers and travel industry before release. Promoted via innovative campaigns: sneak previews to generate testimonials, personality quiz to find your ideal itinerary (shareable on social media) etc. Interactive trip-planning platform allows visitors to build ideal holiday

WP5 will develop indicators to track output economic, social, environmental performance and sustainability, ensuring offer is demand-driven and responds to the new strategy.


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