Niche tourism opportunities
Taking advantage of craft tourism opportunities - The Steensons
Craftsmanship is a key business focus of the Steensons design and craft jewellery. The designs, sold in their Glenarm workshop and Belfast store, combine traditional techniques with new technologies.
Brona Steenson, Director of Steensons Jewellers, explains how the business takes advantage of craft tourism opportunities.
Craft tourism in Northern Ireland
"I think Northern Ireland has been put on the map for its creative industries over the last decade, because of Game of Thrones. Although it's a small place, there is a large percentage of people working within the craft and art industries. Also, you don't have to travel far to see wide-ranging areas of natural beauty, so the ease of seeing local crafts against the backdrop of the surrounding area is a big draw for visitors."
Consider your location
"What seems to appeal to visitors about our business is our unusual designs. Our designs, handcrafted in Northern Ireland, mean that visitors get the chance to take home something that is locally-made and unique to the area. Since moving the location of the Glenarm workshop to a more prominent place within the village, we have benefited from the increase in tourism - our footfall tripled and our turnover doubled. Location is key. We are now close to a car park and visitor centre, which means that tourists arriving by car, as well as small coach and taxi tours, often stop with us."
Connect with local networks
"We are part of the Causeway Coast and Glens ECOMUSEE network, which welcomes the public to see the skill of our craft in action. The term 'ECONMUSEE' means 'working museum', however the local network prefer the term 'artisans at work' as we feel that explains what we offer. Other businesses in this local network specialise in the areas of arts, crafts and agri-food. They similarly use their craft to promote cultural heritage and sustain traditional skills.
We find the main benefit of the ECOMUSEE network is the networking side of things, plus the exchange of ideas on the promotion of our and each other's business."
Identify new opportunities
"Our work with Game of Thrones started when they commissioned us to create a chain of office piece for the first series in 2008. Following that, we made crowns and various pieces over the years. Soon after this people arriving at the workshop wanted to talk about Game of Thrones which came with some challenges. Visitors would spend time discussing the show but they weren't interested in buying our products. I realised that we needed to offer something with a connection to the Game of Thrones that they would be prepared to buy, so I approached HBO about developing a licensed product. This was a long process but worth it in the end. Our Game of Thrones product range has been a success and the fans that visit us, do buy it."
Promote your business
"We market predominately to a local market advertising to them through billboards, buses and publications. Overall about 30 per cent of our sales comes from visitors - mostly at our Glenarm workshop. We advertise in a brochure that is handed out on cruise ships and also in hotel magazines and hardback books. Our website is by far our biggest advertising tool. We are actively promote on social media, mainly Facebook. We are trying to increase our Instagram presence, as we like to explore the success of different promotional channels."
Brona's top tips:
- "Place emphasis on storytelling – this is an important part of craft and will add value to your products."
- "Meet customers in person – they are more likely to connect with a product if they meet the designer."
- "Grow small - take bite-size chunks. If you throw everything at it in one go, it can sink very easily."