20 March 2013

The Kingston Society learns about Kingstonfirst

The speaker at the March public meeting of the Kingston upon Thames Society was Lou Raggett of Kingstonfirst, the brand name used for the Business Improvement District (BID) of Kingston Town Centre.

In a highly informative talk she took us through the breadth and depth of the myriad activities that go on to promote Kingston as an attraction, many of which go on unnoticed.

The aim of Kingstonfirst is to "improve the trading environment for our levy paying businesses by animating our streets and creating high quality experience that draws visitors to the town and keeps them coming back."

The intention is simple, to get more people to come to Kingston, to spend more time here and to come more often.

Footfall is the name of the game and Kingstonfirst is winning. Before the BID was created visitor numbers were falling and now they are rising.

To attract more customers Kingston needs to be more than just a shopping destination and visitors need to be able to find the attractions when they get here. A common question asked by people arriving by train is, "Where is the river?" Kingstonfirst produces digital and pocket guides to the town and has visitor helpers, modelled on the Olympic Games Makers, who go out of their way to find and help visitors rather than waiting for visitors to find them.

The work that Kingstonfirst does comes under four broad headings; more customers, better experience, cleaner streets and safer streets.

One of the things that the helpers do is greet coaches to explain what attractions Kingston has and where they are. One of Kingstonfirst's objectives is to get more coach visitors, possibly as a shopping or lunch break for tours that take in Hampton Court or Kew Gardens.

Part of the better experience is making sure that there is always something going on in Kingston. These events range from the familiar flagship occasions like the markets, May Merrie and switching on the Christmas Lights down to street buskers and the Thumbs Up Its Thursday events for Children.

Kingstonfirst operate the Market House on behalf of Kingston Council and they see this as an attractive event space that can be used for exhibitions etc.

Cleaner streets is a major initiative to keep Kingston attractive.

Kingston Council cleans the streets in the town centre and Kingstonfirst washes them. It also removes stickers, graffiti and chewing gum.

Other cleansing includes fly-tip removal, alleyway cleansing and urineoff (it does what it name suggests) application around the town. Additional toilets are also planned to cater for the weekend surge of nightclubbers.

Safer streets is all about making visitors, customers and employees feel safe in Kingston. The town centre has a high crime image but the statistics show that it is not that bad. Initiatives here include the businesses working together to identify and track people causing problems and this can lead to a ban from the town, it's Behave or Be Banned.

The talk was, rightly, well received and led to many questions from the audience on topics ranging from trees to street pastors and cycle racks to Town Guides. There was a genuine exchange of information and ideas and Lou promised to follow-up on some of the issues raised.

It was an incredibly interesting and useful talk very well delivered by somebody who clearly knew their subject and was passionate about it.

1 comment:

  1. It is fantastic that you enjoyed Lou's presentation. The whole Kingstonfirst team work hard to ensure that Kingston continues to thrive in this current economic environment and it is great to have the support of the Kingston Society.

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