50 Great Things to Do in Derry - how it all began

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Strangely enough, it all started in London. . .

Our good friends at Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau have an annual presence at the World Travel Market in that great city. And they invited Culture Company to share their stall at the ExCel Centre last November and take part in what is possibly the planet’s biggest tourism gathering.

Those who’ve visited Excel will know I’m not exaggerating. For those who haven’t, suffice it to say that the capacity of the two halls is about 100,000 square metres and more than a quarter of a million people pass through the doors over the four-day event.

Anything remotely connected with travel is there – from tour operators to communications companies. And every brand has a table or shop front, from the smallest of hotels to the largest of countries.

There are, as I witnessed, many different ways to improve your pitch – from drafting in celebrities, like one Middle Eastern airline who jetted in Dannii Minogue and Patrick Vieira, to handing out free gifts, like the US who gave every visitor a free wallet and pen. (True story, Vieira was two or three stalls down from Miss Indonesia. There were maybe thirty photographers swarming around him fighting to get the best picture, while the Far East beauty queen was left looking at her nails.)

Many exhibitors used costumes to better make their point, some of which were very effective - such as the Belfast brand managers who dressed two models in Titanic-style nautical wear. Other livery, I have to say, wasn’t quite so successful – as in the case of the Cypriot delegation, who could only be approached wearing sunglasses, so garishly orange were their ties. And apologies, that should really read ‘ORANGE’.

DVCB are no slouches in the marketing stakes and use many tools of their own, from tailored brochures, to a slideshow showcasing Derry’s heritage offer, to the ‘Voices’ film with the Snow Patrol soundtrack, which was used as part of the City of Culture bid.

As a self-confessed list nerd, I have to say I was very taken by the number of stalls who offered 50 or 100 reasons you should sample their hospitality (personal favourite, ‘101 things to eat in Alabama before you die’). Though to be honest, when you examined them closely, none of them struck me as compelling as the reasons I’d visit here.

So, as soon as I got out the door, I sat on the Tube home with a scrap of paper and my free ‘Go USA!’ pen, starting my list for the Northwest. Since then, a number of my colleagues have also joined in the fun. So this list is alive and well, and we’d love to hear your views on what’s Great about Derry. Let us know on the City of Culture 2013 Facebook page, or by contacting us on our website, www.cityofculture2013.com

The list may never end . . .!