Ep.3 Slimbridge Wetlands Centre with Sammi Luxa

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2 Mar, 2022

About Episode 1

WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre, Gloucestershire – talking all things marketing with Sammi Luxa, Sales & Marketing Manager

Sammi has been in the visitor economy for over ten years where she started her tourism career at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm in Somerset.

In this episode Sammi talks about marketing WWT Slimbridge during its 75th anniversary (2022).

“…one of our busiest times of the year is around Christmas, because we have these wintering birds, up to 30,000 come to Slimbridge in winter.”

We chat about:

>The changing face of marketing visitor attractions

>How TV advertising is now more financially accessible – using Sky’s AdSmart service.

>Blue Prescriptions and the health benefits of being in and around water.

>Tips for getting into a career in marketing visitor attractions.

>Sammi Luxa’s interest in Contemporary Country Music.

Full Transcription
Kelly Ballard
Hi, Sammi, welcome to The Visitor Economy podcast. It’s really nice to have you here.

Sammi Luxa 01:40
Hi Kelly, it’s great being invited. Thank you.

Kelly Ballard 01:43
You’re very welcome, I’ve known you for a number of years but we haven’t seen each other for a long time. I’m really interested today to hear about you and what you do, and a little bit about your career, and just some of your work that you do. So you currently work for Slimbridge, when I say Slimbridge, it’s WWT at Slimbridge. Tell me, what’s your role there? Tell me a little bit about the organisation.

Sammi Luxa 02:14
Sure, yes, so I am the sales and marketing manager for WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre. So that is part of the wider WWT charity, which is the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. It’s an organisation that’s 75 years old, and we are a wetland conservation charity, but we also have nine sites across the country. So Slimbridge is one of the nine sites and attractions of the different wetland centres that we have, it’s the largest and the oldest as well. So yeah, it’s a very interesting place to work, it’s very beautiful, surrounded by a nature reserve, and also a collection of animals.

Kelly Ballard 02:55
Right, and how long have you been there?

Sammi Luxa 02:58
So I’ve been there for three and a half years now.

Kelly Ballard 03:01
Wow, interesting, how time flies. So you’ve had that two of those years through the pandemic.

Sammi Luxa 03:08
Yeah when you say it like that, it does spring to mind.

Kelly Ballard 03:12
Gosh, before we go into that and what you’ve been going through over the past two years, which I’m sure has been challenging, tell us a little bit about Slimbridge, and the number of visitors, and exactly where it is for those people that haven’t been before.

Sammi Luxa 03:28
So Slimbridge Wetland Centre is in Gloucestershire, and it’s just outside the village of Slimbridge. We have about 250,000 visitors that come every year, and all different mixtures of visitors. It’s very popular with families, but also with nature lovers, and wildlife enthusiasts, because you’ve got a real mix of an attraction there. It’s got the world reserve, which is home to 1000s of birds each year, who use Slimbridge as a way through on their migration journeys. And also as a visitor attraction, there are collections of animals, including flamingos and otters, and a variety of bird species from around the world. And it’s got play areas as well. So it’s a fantastic day out for families.

Kelly Ballard 04:15
Wow. Well, I’ve been a few times myself and my children love Welly boot land.

Sammi Luxa 04:21
Yes, Welly boot land is very popular.

Kelly Ballard 04:23
They absolutely love that. But I can imagine working in a place like Slimbridge, you are at the mercy of the elements to a certain degree, and also to nature because the birds are wild. So there’s going to be periods of time when there is a lot to see, and there’s less to see. You recently shared on LinkedIn that there were Starlings didn’t you?

Sammi Luxa 04:46
Oh that’s Jackdaw murmuration. So in winter they murmur as the sun goes down, and they go off in groups and fly around. They happened to capture it with a sunset and it was just an amazing moment to see this sort of wildlife. Spectacles really.

Kelly Ballard 05:08
Wow. So I’m not a bird watcher. Tell me a little bit about this and, sorry to put you on the spot because I know that you may not know some of the answers to this, but do you know where the birds are actually going, or where they’ve come from during the year?

Sammi Luxa 05:27
A whole host at the moment is winter migration. So we’ve got a lot of birds in from Northern Russia and Iceland that fly down to Slimbridge, we get Buicks who travel about 3000 miles each year, and they come down to the UK and to other parts of Europe, but we have families that come year on year to Slimbridge, who know area and bring their segments, like five months segments back with them. And then those segments become adults, and they bring their families back. So we traced a whole load of different Buicks once and then they started to decline. So that’s why it’s so important that the wetland conservation is messaging and what we’re trying to do at WWT, and the centre’s are used to showcase the work that we do.

Kelly Ballard 06:24
Wow, that’s really interesting. They’re like tourism birds aren’t they, coming over here for a holiday I guess. Obviously they do that because of the winter, so when do they come over here? When do the swans come over for example?

Sammi Luxa 06:44
So they’ve sort of arrived, the first one arrived on the 13th of October this year, and they come gradually, we had a bit of a swan fall in November actually. They doubled numbers overnight, a family we had, and they tend to the Rushy Lake, which is an area of Slimbridge, and visitors can see them from there. Gradually they’ll arrive just before Christmas, and then they’ll stay till about mid February. Then they head back on the migration journey back to Russia, and then breed as of June, July time, and then come back. So we have birds migrating in general times so there’s spring migration, summer migrations as well. So that’s the wild birds and then we have a collection of bears that you can see throughout the year.

Kelly Ballard 07:27
Oh, that’s interesting. So I was thinking about that in terms of year round interest. I know you’re busy periods, I’m guessing from a visitor perspective, When are your quieter and busier periods?

Sammi Luxa 07:42
So as we are a family attraction, the holidays are obviously a very busy time for us, this summer is really busy. But actually one of our busiest times of the year is around Christmas, because we have these wintering birds, up to 30,000 come to Slimbridge in winter, all different species, and all sorts of wildlife lovers. As well as people interested in nature who tend to come during this time, because it’s so busy. And New Year’s Day is actually one of the busiest days we have because bird watchers start their bird watching lists. And they like to see as many species as they can on New Year’s Day. We are actually really lucky in the sense that we’re open all year round except for Christmas Day, and we have different visitors come throughout the year.

Kelly Ballard 08:27
Wow. So how do you attract people at different times of the year then, for example, you’re a year round attraction. That’s right, isn’t it?

Sammi Luxa 08:37
Yeah we’re open all year round.

Kelly Ballard 08:38
How do you attract visitors in those quieter times?

Sammi Luxa 08:45
So in the quiet times, I tried to focus on the adult audience and midweek visitation. So look at those heritage arts audiences, but also wildlife interested people really. So we have Scott House Museum that’s opened in the last few years, which is the former home of Sir Peter Scott, who founded WWT, and that’s been opened, that’s an interest for people. That’s more of a core adult experience really, rather than just the families. Then the wildlife like I said, with the birds and the different events that we have on offer to suit their needs. We have photography courses, and bird watching mornings with our reserve team. And that brings in a lot of different visitors as well. So there’s plenty on offer for all different types of visitors, which is what we really want to show, that Slimbridge has something for everyone.

Kelly Ballard 09:37
Yeah, I guess it’s a balance with any natural attraction that, when you’ve got wildlife and people, it’s about having the balance as well between having a good experience and not spoiling it. It’s nice to have these quieter times.

Sammi Luuxa 09:53
It is nice, especially because it is a very peaceful place. And it’s actually a great place for connecting with nature. What WWT have been working towards is that well being, and that connection with wetlands, and water, and nature and how important that is for our mental health. That’s something we’re looking to expand further, and we’ve done some trials of that, a blue prescription, where people can get a prescription from their doctors to come to somewhere like Slimbridge and see the effect of it on their mental health, and how they can improve from any sort of anxiety, stress, depression. We tried it at Slimbridge the last few years, and now it’s being rolled out in the London Wetland Centre.

Kelly Ballard 10:37
Oh, wow. So have you seen any results from that? Are you seeing people come through as a result of that, because I’ve heard this kind of concept has been talked about for a while. I know that when I used to work for the Forestry Commission, in a similar type of organisation, that was the thing that they were doing then, but you actually see people are coming through with that, how does that work? Do they get a free ticket?

Sammi Luxa 11:01
They do get a free ticket. I think it’s still fairly early days of the programme being rolled out at the moment. But yeah, the results that we have from the trials that we did at Slimbridge are really impressive, and I think it showed what nature does to people, and how it can really affect your well being. I think we’ve all learned that during the last few years especially, needing to get out and connect to nature. It’d be interesting to see more results, I don’t have any right now as it’s early days, but especially for somewhere like London, where you have that busy city life where it’s not as easy to connect to green and blue spaces.

Kelly Ballard 11:38
On that note, it’s your 75th anniversary in 2021, Mr. Scott set up Slimbridge back in the day, and obviously didn’t think about it as a 250,000 visitor attraction at the time. Do you want to tell us a little bit about that in terms of the anniversary and why it was set up in the first place?

Sammi Luxa 12:02
So Peter Scott came to Slimbridge in 1946, just after the Second World War, and he’d taken part in the war, and I think he was looking for somewhere to retreat countryside wise. We know that he’s been to other places across the country, but he came here for a few reasons. One of them was because we had a Victorian duck decoy, which is like a working decoy, where you can lure birds into being caught by them following a foxy looking dog, as they always follow their predator. So he found that very interesting. And that’s something he wants to work with, and look at for more conservation purposes of studying birds. And he was a keen painter. And then the other thing was that he noticed that there was a lesser white fronted geese at Slimbridge, which was quite a rare bird at the time, so it’s kind of a special place. And from then he really wanted to connect people with nature, so he opened up a visitor centre and built a house there. He opened it up for people to be able to connect with them, and that’s what the 75th anniversary does, is to talk about the work of Peter Scott, and how the work that he did has also led to modern conservation techniques and what we do today, with all the work that we do on the ground as a conservation charity. We’ve opened eight new attractions over the last three years, and they’re all really about getting people connected to nature and working out why wetlands in particular are so important to their everyday well being.

Kelly Ballard 13:43
Interesting thank you. Am I understanding that there’s another wetlands in Newport just across the water in South Wales? Is that linked to you?

Sammi Luxa 13:53
That’s not linked to us. But there are wetlands there, yes. Because we have sites across the country so we have one in Wales and others all across the country, some in London, one up in Lancashire, and then Scotland, and Northern Ireland as well. So they’re all different ones across the whole country.

Kelly Ballard 14:14
Wow. That’s interesting isn’t it, to think that there is a whole ecosystem and a different world that’s just up the road, it’s very interesting. Tell me, the past two years have been a real challenge for lots of people in our business, but as an outdoor attraction, how have you experienced that?

Sammi Luxa 14:35
I think in some ways we’ve been very lucky. Being an outdoor attraction is an area that people feel quite safe to visit, but obviously we did put some limitations in place. We restricted some of the visitation numbers, and spread people out, we used screens and face mask wearing, we closed indoor space and encouraged social distancing. But I think generally being outdoors has actually been quite beneficial to us in that sense, because there is a lot of space and there’s loads of different areas to explore in Slimbridge. So it’s never too crowded really.

Kelly Ballard 15:12
Sure. In terms of your visitor numbers that you’ve experienced, we’ve had a boom in the staycation with everyone staying around, has that really helped you? What’s your visitor numbers looking like?

Sammi Luxa 15:23
Yeah, they’re good, obviously a lot better than last year. But yeah, they’ve actually been really steady. And we’ve had a fantastic summer, we’ve recovered on really strong levels compared to 2019. So I’m really pleased with how that’s gone. But the staycation market definitely helped, and I think people exploring their local area has really, really helped, and people bringing friends and relatives to us as well.

Kelly Ballard 15:49
Sure. And I’m guessing that you put in place, I’m not sure whether you had this before, but the whole pre booking system, as that helps. I’ve spoken to other attractions where it’s just been so helpful, especially for an outdoor attraction where people make a decision on the day, because if it’s raining they won’t go. But the pre-booked system really helps overcome that. Have you found that?

Sammi Luxa 16:12
Yes, definitely. It has been really good, especially in the busy summer holidays, especially because we had time slots as well, just to help spread people out and get them in easier. So I think that’s been really great. We’ve taken that off for now but we do have online bookings still available. But I think we will review it for next year. And obviously, depending on what’s going on with restrictions, it did definitely help, because it was easy to spread people out. And also, like you said with wet weather, they’re more committed to going, and I think people have hardened up to putting on the wet weather clothing ans thinking, ‘we’re gonna make the best of it’. Because you have a great day out no matter what the weather is doing.

Kelly Ballard 16:49
Definitely. It’s about the clothes that you’re wearing. So In terms of marketing, what’s changed for you over the past year in terms of what you were doing in terms of marketing? Has there been anything significant that’s changed?

Sammi Luxa 17:11
Well, we were lucky enough, as part of the stimulus 2020 project, which links into Slimbridge 75, the anniversary, that we’ve opened these new attractions, and we have some funding through from various people, but especially the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We were able to do a bit of a bigger campaign this year. It was a core campaign, about Slimbridge, called My Slimbridge. And it showcased all the different aspects for visitors to enjoy at whatever your age. So we actually did a TV advert this year for the first time, which had some incredible results. We were able to drill down the data and see who has seen the other and whether they converted to visit on the day, which was something we haven’t necessarily done before to that level. We’ve done it with digital marketing, but probably not to that level, so that’s been exciting. I think we have focused more on the digital marketing side of things. But I do feel that there’s still a need for the more traditional methods as well.

Kelly Ballard 18:17
Sure. When I was at Westonbirt Arboretum, which is kind of comparable to your attraction. If we were featured through our PR on Countryfile or we were on BBC News, the visitor numbers for the couple of days later the week after used to be crazy. Do you find that still?

Sammi Luxa 18:40
Yes, definitely. And we’re very lucky because we get offered a lot of different opportunities to take part in, we were on Countryfile last Sunday. We offer lots of opportunities to the press, on the 75th anniversary, both Points West and ITV came down to celebrate with us. So I do think the PR side of things is really crucial and important. And that’s something I look after as well within my team, but also working with the National PR team as well.

Kelly Ballard 19:18
And that’s useful. When thinking about what you’ve done with Sky and the TV that you’ve just paid for, you’ve said it was positive, but in terms of visitor footfall, how successful was that as a medium for those people that have not used it before versus other things that you might use?

Sammi Luxa 19:42
I think for us it was the data that you could literally drive. It was so driven down that you could see who will serve the other, and you only pay after they’ve used 70% of the other so if they skip another you don’t pay for that. So you could really drill down. I mean that’s quite scary. When you think about how well they can track that level of advertising, but at first, we were able to then put that tracking tag on our website into transaction pages on our ticketing platform, because it was all pre-booking, especially for the summer. And you could actually see who visited our page. Visitation has increased significantly, so it’s great to see it went up last year, because of the pandemic and people coming out for the day that wanted to explore new places. But this year, the increase compared to previously with the pandemic, was a really high increase, and we’ve been able to literally track it to sales, which is so hard to do in lots of other marketing.

Kelly Ballard 20:43
I totally get that, and I love that about marketing, I love how it’s going. On a personal level, I think it scares me, you might say. It’s kind of like, oh, how much do they know about me? Especially when it’s coming into your living room, and what TV you’re watching, but I just think that from a marketing perspective, it is so useful and it stops the wastage doesn’t it?

Sammi Luxa 21:08
It does. And we were able to test the audiences with that as well, which really gave us a clearer insight into who wants to visit and who we should be targeting more thoroughly. So rather than just saying families, we can drill that down a bit further, and look into the data and see, so the profiling information is really really crucial.

Kelly Ballard 21:29
Can I ask what you found from that? For example, how those families are segmented within that and the different types of families? What did you find from that information? What kind of stuff does it give you?

Sammi Luxa 21:45
So we were able to look at the profile, the families that came, and also those who converted to membership, which was really useful. So you can see a lifetime value of them becoming a member, but it was also about the data. It said there were a lot of younger families that wanted to visit Slimbridge, and we traditionally think of it as like primary school aged children in the family market, but it was actually preschool aged children that were responding to most of the advertising. So that was really interesting to see the targeting of where it’s going. But it was also helpful that Sky and Virgin Media were able to open up the audiences of who we serve the habit to. So we were able to look at lower income families, for example, and expand our remit with that, and try to make it more inclusive. I think that’s something we really want to move forward with, trying to make it more inclusive for all different types of visitors.

Kelly Ballard 22:49
That’s really interesting. I think it’s useful for people to understand that, myself included, and how did you buy that? Did you use an agency who are specialists in that?

Sammi Luxa 23:00
Now, we worked with Sky smart directly, and actually one of the contacts there I’ve worked with previously, for radio. So they were able to work out that media buying for us, and we didn’t use an agency for that, which was very easy to do actually.

Kelly Ballard 23:17
Right. Interesting. That’s great. It’s great to hear, I’ve not done it myself. So it’s good to know,

Sammi Luxa 23:25
I think the thing that I was surprised about is that it can work for all different types of budgets as well, because I was thinking you had to be a massive business to have TV advertising, so the fact that we were able to work with our budgets was really great.

Kelly Ballard 23:39
Are you able to plan that locally? Or regionally? Is that how it works?

Sammi Luxa 23:43
Yes, you can target by geolocation, but you can also target by Mosaic groups as well, from experience. So there’s a whole mix that is really gonna be drilled down and detailed. So you can do it regionally or you can do it by postcode.

Kelly Ballard 24:00
Wow, that’s excellent. So Sammi, you’ve been working in the industry for many years now. Could you tell us a little bit about where you started, and your journey to how you got to where you are today?

Sammi Luxa 24:15
Yeah, sure. I kind of fell into marketing actually. So I was working at Noah’s Ark Zoo Farm, just outside of Bristol, during university actually. So in 2007 I started there, working in the ticket office, and then I ended up doing a bit of admin and events marketing for them. I did start a PGCE in teaching secondary school history. But I wasn’t 100% committed when I was on my PGCE course and I ended up going back to Noah’s Ark and getting a marketing assistant role. Then I was promoted when I was 24 to marketing manager, so I was given quite a lot of responsibility and trust early on. So I worked there for almost 10 years as marketing manager, and loved it. I got to work on some great campaigns with them. Then I left and went to Australia on holiday, and had such a great time that I wanted to go and live out there. So I went there, not thinking I would work in tourism again, or marketing. But I was very lucky and ended up doing a job as a senior brand manager at Taronga Zoo in Sydney, and that was fantastic. I was there for six months, because you can only work so much out there on a visa, and did another marketing job out there as well. I ended up coming back and doing some temporary roles. I was at a visit bar for a while and then I went to the National Trust briefly and I ended up at my job at Slimbridge. So yeah, I had a really good level of experience I guess. It was something I fell into completely, but I just absolutely love it.

Kelly Ballard 26:09
I totally know what you mean. And I think for anybody listening who is thinking about getting into marketing, I’m always being approached and asked, how do you get into what you’re doing? Because people might be working in insurance in marketing, and they love to come across and work in this industry. It’s very often that the route to getting into your job is not straightforward, marketing insurance is very different to marketing and attraction.

Sammi Luxa 26:40
Yeah. My degree is in history, so not really related. But actually a lot of the skill set is very similar. And I think that’s the same for a lot of different people, because of the skills that you bring to the role. I didn’t have any marketing qualifications, and a lot of people do have that. I’ve now wished I’d had started that way, but I never knew I’d love it so much. I think I had the wrong view of what working in tourism was. I thought it’d be working for a travel agency, it wouldn’t be working within the visitor economy like we do now.

Kelly Ballard 27:13
Yeah, I totally get that. I remember thinking it was all about being a travel agent or being an air hostess, that perception is interesting. I was listening to something the other day where they were talking about going to college and getting your marketing degree, and business degree, which is the route that I took. But as they were saying, I find it quite interesting, they teach you to be a cog in a big organisation. They teach you how to trade with China, and obscure things to do with imports and exports. There is a broad based focus, but they don’t teach you about sales funnels or digital marketing, the kind of detail that you actually have to do when you work on the job. So I think there’s something to be said for actually working your way up, and starting within an organisation, and learning these things on the job, and then skilling yourself up.`Once you’ve got into that, you need a certain competency to start with, but a lot of the time, that’s about your personality and just wanting to work hard in whatever it is you do.

Sammi Luxa 28:28
Yes, I completely agree. I think when you become a manager as well, if you’ve done those jobs, that you’re for the people that you’re managing, like a marketing system, or marketing exec, and you’ve worked your way up, you understand them a lot more. So you can really relate to people and help assist them. If you did struggle or you do struggle with your role now or whatever, so I think that’s really important. And in terms of digital marketing, it was when I went to Australia that I really learned about how digital marketing works. 80% of their marketing over there is digitally led. So that was really interesting, and a big eye opener for me, because I think the UK were slightly behind in terms of what they were doing. I found that experience really interesting, helpful, and a way to learn new things.

Kelly Ballard 29:16
Sure. So in terms of digital marketing, we’ve talked about how things are changing. I think that’s one of the biggest things from a marketing perspective, the change. There’s still a place for PR, but PR is becoming more about content, and is becoming more about influencers, as opposed to the traditional media. It’s becoming much more accessible financially, like you were saying earlier, we can target people, there’s less wastage, but what are you doing in Slimbridge now that you weren’t doing before, when you were at Noah’s Ark, for example?

Sammi Luxa 29:56
I guess there’s obviously a lot more digital marketing, so we’re doing a lot more research, and paid search as well. But for us, I think the biggest change has been content, like you said, on social media. So the growth of social media since I was at Noah’s Ark is huge, there was no Instagram for example. And I think, for us, I’ve got a fantastic marketing executive Amy, who’s very creative, and is also a photographer. So I’m very lucky in that sense. But I think taking that formality out slightly and being more social, and being more open, and having funny jokes and stuff, having that side on social media is great. Knowing the channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram very well, and making sure that you’re serving content to the right audiences. That’s really key for us, for example, Twitter is very much for our bird watching audiences, but less for the families. So the content that we serve on Twitter is very much nature focused. So I think that’s been really interesting to learn, and we’re working on a strategy to see how that goes, and making sure that we’re serving the right content to the right audience.

Kelly Ballard 31:14
Yeah, that’s useful if it’s good that you’ve got somebody that works with you that does that. That’s really handy. Gosh, you can just disappear down rabbit holes can’t you, and I think it’s just nice that you appreciate the need for that authentic tone of voice and the social space. I think I’ve seen lots of organisations who just focus on pushing content out, and they don’t respond to people. They don’t create that sense of community that I think that can be generated through social media. It takes so much time though, like you say. It takes a while for the senior team sometimes to get that you actually need to spend quite a lot of time on it, working that environment and things like that. But it’s not overnight, and you can’t do it when you’ve got just a couple of 100 followers, you need to build it up. The only way to do that is to be constantly pushing out testing whether it works.

Sammi Luxa 32:23
Yeah, I think testing is really important. And also that conversation interaction with people. So if they’re asking a question, you need to reply to them. And that’s not always the easiest thing to do. Sometimes there’s complaints that come in through social media, but I think getting back to people and having that conversation, and being open to discussion is really important.

Kelly Ballard 32:42
Yeah, definitely. So on that note, when you’ve got complaints, or whatever it is coming through social media, what’s the most challenging thing in your career that you’ve had to deal with? From a marketing perspective?

Sammi Luxa 32:55
I’ve done a few jobs with animals, and I think that in itself is a very sensitive topic. Zoos are a very sensitive topic for people, there is that emotional connection for not just visitors, but for the staff and for the volunteers as well. I think that’s always been the hardest point to deal with, that sensitivity around animals and, you know, animals do die. That’s very hard for people to accept and to understand, and I think that in all the different places I’ve worked, dealing with crisis management, it’s happened in every single job I’ve ever had. Learning those key skills is really important, and that’s something I wasn’t aware of. Those moments have been very difficult, but I think I’ve learned so much from them. So it’s not something I’d regret going through in that sort of sense. And making sure that the communication is right is really important.

Kelly Ballard 34:02
Yeah, that’s really interesting. I’ve never looked at it like that before, but yeah absolutely, you do need to be ready for that kind of stuff, because it is quite challenging to deal with. From a Slimbridge perspective, what’s the most challenging thing that Slimbridge is having to deal with at the moment?

Sammi Luxa 34:24
Obviously, we’re looking at the COVID regulations and all that stuff, but we feel quite secure in what we’ve put in place. Because we’re 75 years old, we’ve had loads of people visit us over that time, but they haven’t necessarily visited recently, like some people say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been there for 40 years or 20 years or 10 years’. For us, it’s about trying to get those people to come back and visit again. It’s only birds, and it’s quite old, whereas in the last three years especially we’ve created eight new visitor attractions for people to enjoy. And it has changed an awful lot while still keeping its foundations, and those memories are for people when they first visited. So, for me, it’s always trying to find ways of how we can get them to come back and see Slimbridge, and visit with their children, or their grandchildren. That’s always quite tricky.

Kelly Ballard 35:24
Yeah I get that. Just thinking about you now Sammi, and how you’ve experienced COVID. Over the past couple of years, you wrote a really amazing blog. I saw it was an article on LinkedIn, it was about your experience of COVID and you made some promises there of things that you were going to do. Do you want to just tell us about that, and whether you’ve managed to keep it, because I think we all feel the same. We all felt the same way about the isolation. And what’s important in life is that it keeps your feet on the ground. But do you want to tell people a little bit about that?

Sammi Luxa 36:04
Yes, sure. So I wrote a blog about five positive things I learned from being furloughed, because at the time, I think there’s so much negativity in the press, and worry, and a lot of stress. Initially, the first two weeks, I was very stressed, having to take time off work, because I think a lot of my routine revolved around my work. And it was very crucial to how I function. And then after two weeks, I relaxed into it. And we had that amazing weather, and were going out and connecting to nature. I think I’ve had a really good time reflecting on slowing down. Things like the daily commute, for example you know, something I was doing over an hour drive each way. And it was taking its toll on me, just in terms of free time, but also just tiredness generally. And that’s been improved. So I don’t work in the centre. Every day of the week at the moment, I’m working partly from home and partly from the centre. And I think it’s really important to still be there. But not necessarily every single day, so that’s helped. It was about looking after my well being a lot more, and being a bit easier on myself, I think has all helped. I did keep my promise to explore more of the UK, so I went to Edinburgh on holiday, and I went down to Devon. I think just exploring what we do have here, which is that we’ve got some amazing attractions, was really good. But yeah, there’s definitely some old habits that have slipped.

Kelly Ballard 37:41
Yeah, I know, it’s been such a reflective time, though, hasn’t it? You prioritise the things and the people that you love the most, it makes you really think about these things in a different way. Something else I read about you is that you’re interested in country music, and you do write a blog about it.

Sammi Luxa 38:01
I do, yeah. So I’m interested in modern country music. And there’s quite a growing big scene in the UK for country music, slightly different to Nashville. But again, really interesting. So I absolutely love it. I started a blog a couple of years ago, and then it just has grown and grown from Instagram, posting about country artists, and there’s quite a lot of UK acts. So I do a little bit of PR work to help support some of those up and coming artists, I love it. I absolutely love it. So you know, Dolly Parton everyday for me, but there’s some fantastic acts as well in the UK, and you probably listen to them on a Spotify playlist, and you wouldn’t realise that is country music. Trying to get rid of that country and western cowboy suit wearing idea ,but looking at what music has been produced that’s authentic in the UK.

Kelly Ballard 39:00
If I was gonna go and look at Spotify now, who would I go and have a listen to as an example of that?

Sammi Luxa 39:06
So Twinnie is somebody fantastic, she’s doing really well in Nashville at the moment actually. And I would also look at a Welsh artist I work with called Gareth Lewis, who is fantastic, and he’s got an amazing voice.

Kelly Ballard 39:31
Yeah, I’ll start queuing them up on my Spotify and start listening.

Sammi Luxa 39:38
It’s just very relaxing.

Kelly Ballard 39:41
That’s what we need. What would you say in terms of people wanting to come into tourism and start a marketing career? What advice would you give somebody who’s listening to you and thinking what they want to do?

Sammi Luxa 39:56
I think there’s loads of different jobs out there. But I think when you start getting into that role and you make connections, it’s really important because tourism is a very small world.. And you see people time and time again, I’m working with people now that I’ve worked with 12 years ago. Making those connections, and making a good impression with those connections, and being friendly, and open is really important, because you will see people time and time again.I went to Australia, and people knew of people in the UK that I have worked with, when I came back, I still worked with some of those people again. So I think it’s really important to make those connections and make a good impression of yourself as well.

Kelly Ballard 40:41
Sure, I’ve heard lots of people start by volunteering, and like you did, you started working in a completely different role, in a junior role, and then you stick with the organisation and find the opportunities whilst you’re in there.

Sammi Luxa 40:57
Yeah, definitely. And I think volunteering is a really good way to get involved as well, and just work experience and things like that. You don’t necessarily have to love marketing, but you can love animals, or love a place, that’s something that’s really important.

Kelly Ballard 41:13
Sure, so what’s been coming up for you personally and at Slimbridge in 2022?

Sammi Luxa 41:19
I think for Slimbridge, we’ve got lots going on, so we’ve opened these new attractions the last few months, and there’s loads to see and do. It’s about establishing what Slimbridge is. We’ve also got some exciting things coming up, we’ve got an art hub, and we’re looking at more artists workshops for the next year. And then also, to me personally, I’m going to start a Chartered Institute of marketing course, professional diploma in marketing. I feel like now is a good time to get that qualification in marketing, even though it has been so long. But I think for me it’s that next step professionally, doing that cause as well as working full time will be interesting, but I think it’s something I’d really like. I’ve listened to a few webinars and podcasts from some of the marketing courses, and it’s really interesting. So I think for me to solidify more knowledge it would be good to do.

Kelly Ballard 42:13
That’s great, I did that. I’ve done a professional diploma, I found it really useful. I did postgraduate work as well. And at the time, it was just too strategic for me, and what I really liked about the professional diploma was the planning and that it was very delivery orientated as well. You have the strategy, and it’s very practical.

Sammi Luxa 42:38
Yes, definitely. And that’s what I’m looking at as well.

Kelly Ballard 42:42
Oh, brilliant. Well, where can our listeners connect with you Sammi? Would you like to tell us and I’ll put these on the show notes. But in terms of Slimbridge, and anything else you’re doing, would you like to share your URLs and handles?

Sammi Luxa 42:56
Yeah, sure. So for Slimbridge, it’s at WWT at Slimbridge, and for me on LinkedIn, you can chat with me @SammiLuxa. And if you’re interested in country music, you can go on to followyourarrowuk.com.

Kelly Ballard 43:22
That’s great. Thank you so much, Sammi. I will put those in the show notes anyway, so that people can find you. But thanks ever so much for your time today. It’s really nice to see you again.

Sammi Luxa 43:32
Thank you, Kelly. And I hope it all goes well. It’s very exciting to be part of it. So thank you.

Kelly Ballard 43:36
Thank you.

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Ep.37 Working with Influencers in 2024 MARKETING INSIGHT

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