By virtue of a few e-mails exchanged with Stratford District Council and a chance meeting with Rob from Avonlea Guest House in Stratford upon Avon I was invited to attend the Shakespeare’s England Forum at Mallory Court just outside Leamington Spa today.

It was really interesting and I got to meet a number of people from the world of tourism in the Stratford area. That, drink some nice coffee and reminisce about Carl & Kate’s wedding which I attended in the very same room 5 years ago!

Shakespeare’s England is the “destination management organisation” (DMO) for Stratford upon Avon and surrounding area.

So what is Shakespeare’s England DMO and what is the forum about?

Well, my interpretation (aided by the Shakespeare’s England blog page I must add) is that the DMO is an organisation set up to work alongside businesses and local authorities to promote tourism in the area.

The forums occur at certain times of the year (quarterly I think) and are an opportunity for the DMO to explain to their membership what they’ve been up to, what their plans are and to allow members/partner organisations a platform to promote themselves by presenting to the delegates.

The group has only recently launched – in October 2013 – and they not only promote Stratford and surrounds but help local businesses interact with each other to ensure everyone gets the most out of the region as a tourist destination.

It’s a great concept and I found it quite surprising that it’s the first time anything like this has been set up in the area.

The main guest presenter today was Melanie Sensicle from the County Durham DMO which was set up 7 years ago. It was fascinating to hear how they’ve improved the appeal of the region as a whole by identifying it’s main assets and working together.

If County Durham’s experience of a DMO is anything to go by then Stratford upon Avon and surrounds has some very exciting times to come.

As for me, I had the opportunity to tell a few people about Go Cotswolds. I met Helen & John from the excellent Stratford Town Walk who were really nice. They seemed excited about the Go Cotswolds idea as well as the prospect of perhaps working alongside each other in the future.

I also chatted with a couple of B&B/guesthouse proprietors and met the DMO manager Robin in person for the first time (we’ve previously spoken on the phone).

It was a very worthwhile morning and it’s certainly given me extra motivation to get Go Cotswolds up and running as soon as possible.