Attraction Marketing: Find out the Number 1 thing all attraction marketers need to focus on in 2023

In this Skip the Queue podcast episode, I speak with Ant Rawlins, CEO of Navigate Agency – the marketing agency for the tourism and conservation sectors.

“The very first thing attraction marketers could, should do is ultimately just deliver really good digital advertising. It’s the most straight line method for visitors. It really is.”

Anthony Rawlins | CEO Navigate Agency – founded Navigate to help tourism businesses enhance their digital marketing and attract wider audiences locally and internationally. For over 20 years, he has worked across all travel and tourism industry segments for leading global brands worldwide.

At Navigate, Anthony ensures the company is at the leading edge of industry insights and trends and drives innovation and business strategy to continue delivering best-in-class growth for their clients.

What will you learn from this podcast?

  • How to position your attraction as essential
  • The number 1 thing all attraction marketers need to focus on this year
  • An exciting new initiative, listen out for Wildling

ANthony Rawlins Skip the Queue


To listen to the full podcast, search Skip The Queue on iTunes, Google Podcasts and Spotify to subscribe. You can find links to every episode and more at www.rubbercheese.com/podcast.

You can also read the full transcript below.


The interview

Your host, Kelly Molson

Our guest, Anthony Rawlins




Kelly Molson: Ant it is so nice to have you on the podcast today. I have to say, I’m so delighted that you’re on because you are genuinely one of my favourite speakers to listen to. So I’m thrilled that you’re on today, and I know this is gonna be a really exciting conversation. 

Ant Rawlins: No pressure then. 

Kelly Molson: Absolutely not. I always like to start with a little bit of pressure on. And that takes us very nicely to our icebreaker questions. So when you were 6, what did you want to be when you grew up? 

Ant Rawlins: When I was 6, it was probably pretty cliche. An archaeologist or a fighter pilot. I probably say a fighter pilot more. 

Kelly Molson: Is this top gun? 

Ant Rawlins: It is top gun. And and I’m pretty sure top gun was released when I was 6, and my brother then went into the REF. So I kinda wanted to be my brother and a fire pilot. But, you know, there you go.

Kelly Molson: He got he got there first, basically. 

Ant Rawlins: He did. He did. 

Kelly Molson: Actually, archaeology, so that’s really interesting because it does kind of fit with some of the that you’ve done, doesn’t it? In a holistic kind of way. We’ll talk about that a little bit more later. Okay. If you could be in the Guinness World of Records, what record breaking feet would you attempt? 

Ant Rawlins: That’s really mean. I have no idea what that would be. I don’t think that I’m gonna be in the Guinness book record. I’ve never allowed myself to entertain that. 

Kelly Molson: Do you have, like, a weird talent? 

Ant Rawlins: Not really that we can broadcast. So this is gonna sound really silly. It would be best dad. 

Kelly Molson: Oh. 

Ant Rawlins: I’m not necessarily convinced by that, but there you go. We’ll see.  

Kelly Molson: Tough critics around, I’m gonna say. Okay. Interesting. Thank you. And if you could have 1 extra hour of free time every day, what would you use it for? 

Ant Rawlins: Reading. It would be reading because I really do not enjoy reading at all. I can’t stand it. So I would force myself to do that. 

Kelly Molson: That was unexpected. I thought you were gonna tell me that you’re a bit of a bookworm, but you do consume knowledge. I know that you consume knowledge because you’re incredibly knowledgeable, especially at the top that we talk about today. How do you consume it? Are you more of a podcast? Do you want more audio? 

Ant Rawlins: Very much audio. Again, I don’t enjoy reading, but I read a lot. I just find it really challenging medium through which to get information. It’s very one dimensional. Whereas, actually, if you can show me documentary, I’ll get a lot more info from that, but that’s a huge debate. Right? So. 

Kelly Molson: Yeah. That’s really interesting. So it’s a really good answer to the question, and it would be my answer as well because I don’t get time to read. Reading for me is a way of going off into a different world. Whether that’s reading something historical or reading something fictional, it just takes me away to a different place for a while, and I’ve kinda lost that. My time has been sucked up with toddler, so I’ve kind of lost that a little bit. So that would be a nice time to go on in a bit.

Ant Rawlins: Do you know honestly, as I said, I don’t like reading, and I absolutely never read fiction. It’s always non fiction. It’s always work, it’s always research papers or documents or business books or how to be a CEO and not throw yourself off a bridge, that kind of stuff. I rather than a lovely story.  I mean, I hit previously, but Wilbur Smith and Barry, stuff like that, but I’d start at the time. So that’s what I would do with my hour, Kelly. 

Kelly Molson: Good answer. Good answer. Thank you for sharing. Right, unpopular opinion, what have you prepared for us? 

Ant Rawlins: Email, either test email as well. This is not going to be a negative as it sounds. We’re getting it out of the way now.  We will be super positive going forward but I hate email. And I was thinking about this, obviously, running a strategic digital marketing agency. That’s professional suicide saying you hate email to a certain degree.

But I do hate it because it’s a terrible thing. It delivers great results. But imagine your email be a letter box. And through this letter box, you get information from the government, information from healthcare providers, tax information, essential business correspondence. But also, those t shirts that you don’t want, these pair of shoes.

I’ve inherited a lot of different pots of money from foreign countries where I just need to provide my account details. And they will release 10 percent of the £45,000,000 to me. Your email, as the collater of all of this, how do you escape today? Crazy. We need a better system. 

Kelly Molson: You’re right. You are right. I don’t think this is gong to be a massively unpopular opinion. If I’m honest. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I actually know an agency owner. Sorry, he’s an agency founder and now runs an agency kind of collective support network.

He just doesn’t use email at all anymore. He’s posted it down it. Just not it just doesn’t communicate by it. He’d rather use WhatsApp or Slack or those kind of channels for it. And I think it’s so hard, isn’t it? Because it’s like a necessary evil. Yeah. But the time that it saps away from you is just. 

Ant Rawlins: I know. And there’s loads of productivity hats. You can activate around it, but, you know, goodness me. It’s best not to do that. Yeah. And and I do apologise for being pretty tame. But, I had about a 1000 things for you, and I wasn’t allowed to say any of them. One of them has my wife. Yeah. You can’t say that. You can’t say that. So there we go. 

Kelly Molson: We’ll discussed those ones off air. 

Ant Rawlins: Definitely. 

Kelly Molson: Okay. Right. Founder of Navigate, Tourism And Conservation Marketing Agency, fabulous agency. Lots of wonderful things that you do for your clients. What brought you to the world of attractions, tourism, and conservation? How did you end up here? 

Ant Rawlins: So I studied biology at Bristol. And fairly quickly, during my degree, I realised there was no way in the planet I wanted to be a biologist. Because fundamentally, my life would be spent staring down a microscope looking at, I don’t know, either sperm or stool samples, which is where a lot of biology originates or comes to at the end. So I kind of thought, “Yeah. I’m not gonna do that with my time”.

So I kind of I’ve always been interested in in, generally, in science, I’ve got quite a strong science background at all my levels of science than, obviously, a science degree of Bristol. The master’s in science at Bristol as well. But I kind of thought I wanted to do something on my own and and see how I could do. 

And I just decided to set up a business straight out of university. I’ll add a disclaimer here because I often get labeled with this being a very brave decision. It wasn’t a brave decision. It was purely a logical decision. I had no money. So I have nothing to lose. Sucks. So you just go for it.

What’s the worst that could happen to me? Add a little bit more debt to the burgeoning student debt I had anyway. So, yeah, set up the company and off you go. It started in a different iteration. But, fortunately, as I’ve learned more about business and people, I’ve been able to direct that to the things that matter to me. And here we are now, tourism and conservation. 

Kelly Molson: The things that matter. It’s really interesting that you set up. I didn’t realise that you’d set up so early on in your career, actually. And I just come from a conversation about a very similar topic. We set up our agency when we were about 24. I’ve worked in various different places prior to that.

I never really found anywhere that I settled. But it’s exactly the same thing. There was no risk then. It was “Okay. Well, I need to earn enough money to pay my phone, put some petrol in my car, pay my monthly rent”. That’s it. It’s not a brave decision. It’s like, I don’t have any there’s just nothing to lose here, so I may as well just give it a go. It’s a really empowering place to because now if I was thinking about doing it again. There’s a lot more risk. A lot more overhead. 

Ant Rawlins: It’s terrifying. It’s terrifying now. Those are the brave people. The ones that have responsibilities and financial commitments and go, “Do you know what? I’ve known this way of life for this amount of time. I’m gonna stop that. I’m gonna give it a go”. I predicted I would not have the courage to do that 10 years down the line. So I thought, “Oh, I’m just gonna do it now”. 

Kelly Molson: I love that. Well, I’m glad that you did because it’s brought you to where we are today. And I wanna talk a little bit about where we are today. So just from the attractions perspective, it’s been a bit of a weird year, hasn’t it? 2023, I think.

The last few years, a bit weird. Let’s face it. They have kind of, a massive whammy throughout the pandemic. Can be open one minute, can’t be open the next minute, restrictions, all kinds of stuff going on. And then come through all of that and are smashed in the face with economic chaos, cost of living crisis, war in Ukraine, not really understanding whether visitors are gonna be able to afford to come to them this year. 

And so it feels a little bit like everyone’s been steering headlights and going, “We just we really don’t know what to do. We’re absolutely exhausted from the last 2 years. We don’t know what to do”, and we know that visits are about 80 or 90 percent of pre pandemic levels. What’s your take on where we’re at the moment of where things are going? 

Ant Rawlins: I think your analysis is spot on. That is where we are. It’s challenging times. We are finding organisations are taking longer to make decisions because they’re cautious naturally. I’m also finding that there’s a bit of a reticence to invest in kind of marketing and revenue generation.

From the point of view of almost thinking, “Well, it’s not gonna be great this year. So let us not spend budget on not having a great year”. It’s quite upside down thinking, in my opinion. But that is what’s happening. And I know this because I I speak with clients very openly and honestly. We work with quite a few businesses that we feel the responsibility to turn their fortunes around. The the organisations I love working more than anything or where they’ve got a big problem, a seriously big problem. 

So a number of our clients last year or the year before might have had to make redundancies. Serious stuff, reduction in headcount, reduction in visitor numbers as we know it’s been happening. And they just wanna get back to the levels they were or even just ride the ship so we get involved and we help them do that. And I’m proud feel a very profound sense of pride when we do that. And we do it. We’re serious about doing that, and I love it. 

Kelly Molson: You do it really well as well. So, some of your attraction plants are really bucking this trend, and that’s kind of what we’re gonna focus on today along with something very exciting, which is coming later. But I wanna kinda talk about strategies and methodologies that attractions can implement right now to increase their marketing success.

I think this is what they want to hear about. But can you kinda set the scene for us? So what are some of your clients achieving in terms of visitor numbers and revenue? Because you’ve got some really impressive stats around that. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. So I’d like to think that, our clients are kind of booking a trend looking at some of them are 10 to 15% above pre pandemic levels. Some of them are at pre pandemic levels. But then, again, some of them are below because we’ve just got them on board, and our job is to convert them and increase them back to where they were or beyond.

And our aim is always, let’s take them beyond where they were. So yeah, whenever I sit down with a client, I always look at what their targets are, then I set my own internal target of usually 10 to 15% above that. And say and Navigate, we craft the strategy to overdeliver so that, classic aim for the moon at least you’ll land amongst the star strategy.

If we aim big, do a good work there, then it massively mitigates the risk that you’re not gonna hit the target. But invariably, we go beyond it and it works. And what I do find fascinating at the moment is we’re kind of feeling that because of the lack of impetus behind rolling out big marketing campaigns and investing in marketing because people are being very conservative with budgets.

That does mean the people that we’re working for, they’re flying. So they’re growing well because, actually, if people are holding back and we’re going all in, then they’re not constantly getting the visitor numbers and of revenue. It’s just, stats, isn’t it? It’s just gonna be the case. We make more noise people see our clients more, they visit them more. 

Kelly Molson: That sounds really simple. When you say it and budgeted for. 

Ant Rawlins: I know. I know. 

Kelly Molson: The listeners that listen to this podcast are at all different sizes. So attractions of all sizes. And Some of them may be at those lower levels right now and starting to be, slightly concerned about what summer may bring or may not bring. What would be your advice to attraction marketers that is kind of struggling to focus on what the priority should be right now? 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. That’s a good question. So this isn’t rocket science at all. It’s quite straightforward. The very first thing attraction marketers could, should do is ultimately just deliver really good digital advertising. It’s the most straight line method for visitors. It really is. When I say digital marketing, yeah it’s digital advertising activity. That needs to be good. It should be the best.

It is the creme de la creme marketing activities that can be done with immediate impact. That’s completely measurable and transparent for me. It doesn’t really make sense to invest budget anywhere else. Even projects that I work on independently at Navigate my own initiatives, or innovations as, we might talk about it later, we would only do digital on that. Why would we ever think of anything else? There’s just simply no requirement, and we can’t track it. We can’t measure it. We can’t optimise. 

So the very first thing any attraction should do is what are they doing on digital and just do that more and do it better. And yet, despite the pandemic, believe or not, I still speak to some attractions that direct 80% of their marketing budget towards traditional marketing print leaflet, bus shelters, this and the other. 

Kelly Molson: Wow. 

Ant Rawlins: And I just I can’t rationalise it in my head. I don’t understand. It does not compute. 

Kelly Molson: That’s a huge percentage. That’s really surprising. I mean, I can understand some of their budget going towards it, but, you know, 20%, not 80%. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. And so when you were talking about, the growth in visitor numbers that we’re delivering for a lot of clients, it’s because we charge into executing a digital advertising and marketing strategy immediately and it has immediate effects. Literally month long. It’s so, yeah, that’s what I would do.

And it doesn’t matter what size you are. Because I would say if you’re above 50,000, then you can implement what I’m talking about to the scale that it’s required. If you are a 100,000, then 100,000 business plan and then it’s viable. Anything above that, you have got the visitor numbers and the marketing investment and resource to deliver a highly effective activity that will give you the visitor numbers you want. 

Kelly Molson: There’s something else that you’ve been talking about quite a lot recently, which I am a big fan of. I’ve quoted elements of this blog piece in numerous talks and numerous pieces online. It’s about positioning and attraction as essential. 

Ant Rawlins: Right. Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: You spoke about it brilliantly at the ALVA heads of marketing meeting back prior to December. And it was perfectly timed because at that point, attraction marketeers, we knew we’re looking at maybe a 15 to 20% cut in their budgets this year because of the cost of living crisis and having to look at kind of smarter ways to use their budget and smarter ways to talk about why their attraction is somewhere that people should, people need to visit, not just want to visit. Can you talk us through a couple of those pointers from that blog piece because I just think it’s so invaluable to our listeners to hear about this. 

Ant Rawlins: Sure. So yeah, this came about actually and credit where credit’s due, Richard Huntington, who’s a strategy director — Sachi and Sachi, the first put this forward when I was presenting at an event with him. And we spoke about this, and he suggested that attractions need to position themselves as essential.

So all I did was, write on his coattails and say, “Alright. Well, this is how attractions do position themselves as essential”. So we come up with a various ways of saying, “This is how you should communicate in order to position yourself as essential”. And if you permit me to rewind for a moment, the reason we need to position an attraction as essential is because when reviewing the likely economic impact of the cost of living crisis on visitors, individuals, pockets. 

They’re ultimately gonna be putting everything apart from essential activities. This was the theory 6 months ago when we were talking about this. And, to a certain degree, we have seen this. So that’s why we need to be essential because it’s almost the only ring fence budget in a consumer’s pocket where they go, “Okay, that’s essential. I’m not giving that up.”

How does an attraction do this? How does it position itself as essential? And there’s a number of different ways of doing it. As you’ve said, you can look at the blog that we created for it. And it’s really interesting. 

Ant Rawlins: I think one of the nice ways of maybe picking one good strategy of this apart is making memories. Because our friend Bernard Donoghue at ALVA regularly highlights that attractions are so important because they are these places that create memories. They create moments with people. And I absolutely agree with Bernard, of course. But what I think converts a memory to something essential is time.

As a grandparent, it’s not about you as a grandparent, not being there forever. It’s about as a grandparent, those kids aren’t gonna be little kids forever. They’re gonna be, horrible moody grumpy smelly teenagers before you know it. Apologies to any teenagers listening to me. I’m sure you are not all like that. I certainly wasn’t when I was a teenager. You’ve gotta just look at it a slightly different way. 

And it’s essential, therefore, for the grandparent to spend time with that little four year old, because she’s not gonna be four next year. She’s not gonna be 4 in a few years’ time. Don’t worry about where you are. So, surely, a day out and a memory with a grand kid at the age of four. That’s such a different experience at a kid age seven because I’ve got both, which is so different again from a kid age nine because I’ve got one of them too.

And, it’s kinda like memories are memories at different times as well. And at this timing that you’re happy, you know, you really need to try and leverage that. And if you can do that, then, yeah, it’s essential, isn’t it? You wanna spend time with them young.

Kelly Molson: That’s the one that really hit home for me, actually. So I have a young daughter, she’s just coming up for 2. My parents, we’ve had her a lot later in life. Her grandparents are a little bit older, so they’re 71 this year. And they feel this. So they feel that they have got a set amount of time to make and form those memories with that little girl.

They’re already planning. She’s not even 2 yet. They’ve already said to me, “By the time she’s 5, we’re going to Disney. This is what’s happening, we’re going here. We’re gonna make this big memory because we need to do that”. My dad needs to do that before he’s 80. So I can’t do it any later than that. 

So, they’ve got this time limit on these things. The other thing that really struck me about that blog was how you position what things cost. So there was an element in there about making comparisons between everyday things and what you’d actually spend on an attraction. So I made a comparison between paying I think it was something like £7 to park all day.

This absolutely incredible attraction has the most fantastic kids play area and family area to make all of these wonderful memories. Take your kids’ bike there, teach them to ride. 7 quid is 2 flat whites. Save yourself 2 flat whites a week, and you can go and do this amazing thing. And I thought that was a really strong message to push out for attractions. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. I think that we’ve gotta get across a value message. Again, as everybody’s talking about this, I think that the marketing speak that you’ll hear me say, it’s not new stuff for anybody I imagine that listens to this because everybody that listens to this is good at, it is good at marketing.

They’ve got a sense of the understanding of the principles and the concept here. So showing demonstrating value for an attraction visit is essential, and a lot of attractions. Not all, by the way, but a lot of attractions do deliver fantastic value. And so you really need to kinda leverage that because, yeah, we spend a lot more money on a lot less stuff than memories than these moments and these shared experiences. 

Kelly Molson: We do. And we need we need a good reminder of where our money’s being spent and where it’s important. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. And, again, I think there was a really good output around this. It’s like, buy memory is not stuff kind of thing. It was really good. Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: Okay. Number one thing that all attraction marketers need to focus on for 2023. 

Ant Rawlins: Yes. So I’ve been thinking about how to kind of, distill this into one thing for you. And I believe it is to generate revenue digitally. Three words. Bear with me on this whilst I unpick it a little bit. We gotta generate revenue digitally. Now that actually covers a lot of different things.

First of all, it covers digital marketing. Investing in digital to drive visitors, donations, memberships, whatever you want. That will help you generate revenue digitally. But more than that, your online shop and ecommerce growing revenue from that, which many people became pretty good at during the pandemic.

That’s generating revenue digitally. You can sell digital products. Many membership programs from organisations, might be a magazine which will probably immediately go into the recycling. What about digital product, so you can develop these digital products that will be essential. 

That is, again, generating revenue digitally. Coupled with this, generating revenue is also kinda growing profits. Because you can actually deliver a lot of your functions now with technology in a really good way. We know how stretched attractions marketing departments are, how much work attractions marketers actually do on a daily basis, creating content here, coming up with a strategy there, firefight in this, solving that problem over there. It’s crazy.

When I look at the volume of work that attractions marketers do, it is massive. That there aren’t any coasters in this industry that’ll be working really hard. And they need to use technology to make their jobs easier or not even make their jobs easier so they can elevate the work they do rather than scrambling around doing a little bit here or a little bit there. 

Ant Rawlins: We should be using ChatGPT to create attractions marketing content continually for our attraction. We should be using really good email automation to solve that. And there’s so much good tech out there that this will save you money and, again, grow profits, which is generating revenue for you.

Finally, as part of all of this, all these bits because they’re all digital, and it’s all tech. They should all connect. You should be able to track. You should be able to look at this digital ecosystem you created and understand how it into links and then how you can optimise that conversion. And, again, some of the bigger conversations we’re having with, the some leading kind of attractions in the UK are very much about. “Right, we’ve got this area that’s doing this digitally. We’ve got this digital activity pulling this in here. We’ve got an opportunity to increase efficiency by implementing some tech here. How does this all work together?” 

And and that’s exciting. That’s what we should do. And that is probably very daunting for smaller attractions, and that doesn’t matter. It’s daunting. Yeah. And you have to face it head on because it is only going in that direction. I guarantee it. And you will not be here in 5 or 10 years if you do not do this. It’s that simple. It’s inevitable to quote Agent Smith. 

Kelly Molson: However, however scary it might seem. It’s okay because Navigate just launched something that is actually gonna help the attraction marketers perfectly with this, which is your attraction marketing playbook. 

Ant Rawlins: I was not expecting your segue way there. And the thing that’s quite interesting about that, I wasn’t expecting it. So I thought you’re gonna disagree with me, which I was getting well excited about. Okay. Let’s do it out em up, Kelly. 

Kelly Molson: Let’s do this. No, I absolutely agree with this. I think you’ve nailed that advice there, but I think what you said about it being a really daunting task. I think it can actually be daunting for larger attractions as well, actually, because let’s face it, marketing teams are small. Regardless of the size of agencies, they are really small, and they wear lots of hats, and they juggle a lot of different things. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. They’re small and also the industry well, not the industry. Our society doesn’t have the digital skills and capabilities that are required to capitalise on the technology we currently have. They’re they’re not available. We’ve not trained these people yet. And those people that do have those skills are incredibly short supplied comparatively.

I was at the app to travel marketing conference last week and there’s this company that specialises in travel recruitment called Gail Kenny. And I’ve kind of known him a bit there. They’re good, and they gave a really decent analysis of this digital skills gap. And I just say, yeah. There’s a huge issue. Anybody in digital marketing, digital advertising, CRO, CRM. All of these skills are just in desperate need across the industry. We just don’t have the candidates. 

We don’t have people doing this because they’re all taken. So it’s a skills issue as well, which makes it really daunting because there are other people with that knowledge. But you’re right. That’s I suppose that’s why we kind of created the Visitor Attraction Growth playbook in that, it’s a decent sized document, you know, 50 or 60 page is that really just breaks down the kind of 5 or 6 core activities you should be looking at to grow your visitors and revenue this year. And, yeah, we’ve literally just said all the things we think you need to do. 

Kelly Molson: It’s a lovely playbook, actually. And it’s a really good thing just kinda take you away for an hour or so. Just kinda work your way through, work on it, put your plan together, but then come back and revisit as well. We’re gonna put a link to this in show notes.

So anyone listening, don’t worry. You don’t need to go and find it. Literally, just go to the show notes, and you’ll be able to download it for there. Because, actually, it’s free to download for anyone for a period of time, isn’t it?  Which is lovely. Very generous. 

Ant Rawlins: Oh, well, it is very generous. I had a battle with my marketing manager about this. And he’s like, “No, Ant. We’re not even gonna email gate. And I’m like, “What do you mean we’re not even gonna email gate?” “Well, no. We’re not. We’re just we’re not on a website. Click download done. I might well, hi, mate, your call.” So there we go. 

Kelly Molson: Lovely, lovely good people, you. 

Ant Rawlins: Don’t thank me. Thanks Olly, the Head of marketing. It’s him. It’s not me. 

Kelly Molson: Thanks, Olly. You are a lovely person, actually. 

Ant Rawlins: He is. It’s very easy. 

Kelly Molson: But talking about lovelyness, let’s talk a little bit about Navigate as an agency because you have got a really good ethos in the way that you grow your agency, the way that you hire, the way that you just the way that you run your organisation. And that kinda comes through really beautifully in the fact that you’ve recently gained B Corp status. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. 

Kelly Molson: Just give us a little bit of a snippet of what B Corp means for our listeners that aren’t aware of what this is. 

Ant Rawlins: B Corp is ultimately a movement of businesses that have kind of agreed that the nature of doing business needs to better. And, therefore, we assign certain standards on ourselves in doing that business. So, for example, we have to have specific environmental policies. We have to show improvement in that. We have to have certain culture.

We have to have a certain mentality towards our team and treat our team in a certain way. It’s governance, it’s environmental impact, it’s social impact, and it’s rigorous. It takes 2 years to become a B Corp. And we literally got it a few weeks ago. And, yeah, it’s great to be one. I mean, if you look at some of the, I wouldn’t say, coolest, but I think they’re cool. 

Because that’s what I think cool is being successful and being good for me. That’s cool. So if you look at them serious brands, people like Patagonia and what have you. The kind of, the darlings of a good business, invariably, you’ll find that a lot of them are B corps or on that journey.

And I’m very proud of being a B corp, and at the same time, it’s not an external thing for me. I think quite a few people use it as a “Oh, we’re the B corp, so buy something from us”. That I mean, that’s a bit ridiculous in my opinion. I think that it’s about saying, “Well, listen. Going forwards, business needs to do better. It needs to better. It needs to hold itself the highest standards”. 

There are multiple ways businesses can be profitable and make money. And all I’m saying is on top of that, you need to apply being good with it. And I think it’s one of the fundamental requirements we have to impose on ourselves because we won’t have a planet in about 200 years time if we don’t. I mean, we will have a planet. We just probably won’t be very happy on it, and it won’t be very happy. 

Kelly Molson: I know this is, I mean, you’ve talked about it from a business perspective, but I know that this is a bit of a passion area as well, especially around kind of sustainability and being outdoors in nature. And, actually, I mean, I’ll put this on the in the show notes, but Ant sent me, he emailed me a picture. He emailed it to me. So he doesn’t hate email, really. He emailed me this wonderful picture of himself this week out on a walk whilst listening to the podcast. 

Ant Rawlins: Don’t share that.

Kelly Molson: It was such a great photo. Okay. I might share this photo. I’ll put it Twitter. It was a fabulous photo where it’s outside in nature. But, look, this is you. Like, you are what you talk about. It’s you personified. Everything that you love is all around nature and being outside and being connected to the environment and being sustainable, and that really does across in the way that you run Navigate, also the personal projects that you have.

Now you mentioned earlier that you have your own kind of innovative projects on the go. You’ve got something quite exciting to talk to us about today, which is a podcast exclusive, people. He’s not talked about this anywhere, and Ant talks a lot. He really does. This is a new thing. He’s not discussed this with anyone. So I wanna hear about it. 

Ant Rawlins: Well, I have discussed it with a few people. It’s not been broadcast, Kelly. Just actually, some of the people listening to this podcast, I know who they are, and I know them. And you know them, and we know them. And, actually, they’re gonna be like, “Wait a minute. He spoke to me about that.” So I’ve got the caveat. Some people know.

Okay. But, no, it’s not been announced on the industry yet. It’s not been broadcast. We’ve not launched it yet. Yeah, it’s exciting. As you can tell, it already started increasing the speed of my conversation. So, yeah, do you what did you want to just dive in? 

Kelly Molson: I wanted to dive in because I say that I didn’t know about this prior to this conversation, and I’m really excited about it. This is something that I am gonna use. And I’ll tell you what, I’m gonna use it daily. So I’m really excited about it. I need you to share it with the podcast. 

Ant Rawlins: Alright. You’re so kind. Okay. So, yeah, we’ve created what we think is quite disruptive business for the industry. And when I say disruptive, well, yeah, in a really, really positive way. I consider it a conservation technology business is how I see in my head is what it is. And in its simplest form, it’s a mobile app.

What we’ve done with our app Wildling is we’ve created an app that collates all of the UK’s great nature places in one format, in one place. And we geolocated that information so that you, Kelly, can go to this app on a Saturday morning when it’s a lovely day or not a lovely day, whatever because nature’s ready, whatever the weather. You can go to the app. You go, “What am I gonna do today?”

And you can look at it and it’ll geolocate all the nature places that you can go and visit near you. It gives you the facility’s information, the visitor information that you’d need, the opening times, gives you directions, and then there’s more. So in the first instance, It’s a free to download app. We want everybody in the UK using this. We want it downloaded everywhere. We’ve got a pretty mega network of people are already gonna broadcast this when we launch. I think that the total email they size is about fifty million people so far. I’m gonna get emailed this by our part. Place. Yeah. It’s a bit mad. 

Kelly Molson: But email’s okay, folks. Not rubbish. 

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. It’s a bit mad. Oh, and, also, I came up with this idea with Tim Smith. So Tim, who created Eden Project, it won’t be here without him. You know, me and him have talked about this for 2 years. We’ve been working on it together. We’ve been speaking about it 2 years, and he’s guided me a lot on where we can go with this.

So, yeah, he’s a legend, and he’s my kind of my industry hero, really. But Yeah. So myself and team just thought it is. It’s collectivising nature. It’s all these great nature places you can go. And it’s solving a problem that I had, Kelly. 

 6 years ago, I moved to Dartmouth from Bristol, and I wanted to find out all these great places near me. And I had to go to about 20 different websites, and the information then was, a bit rubbish on some of them. Some of the mad images, some of them didn’t, some of other visitor information. I couldn’t tell. So this way, I’ve got my app. Wherever I am in the country, I can find nature reserves from the RSPB, English Heritage, National Trust, Forestry, England, all these great nature organisations with nature places and 20 seconds more. Our aim here is to put £1,000,000,000 into nature over the next 15 to 20 years. £1,000,000,000 into protecting native nature in this country. 

Ant Rawlins: And the way we’re gonna do this is the way that it should be done because people won’t care. They won’t protect what they have an experience. That’s Adam Brewer’s line, and it’s true. So we want to get them into nature. And when they’re there, because they’ve used our app to get there.

We’re gonna be able to actually communicate with them given the information of that specific place that they are. But also suggest they might want to donate to help protect that place. And we can do it when they’re actually in the environment or just shortly after they return. It’s not, a random email on a Wednesday evening when you’ve not been to a forest for 3 weeks. 

It’s when you’re there, when you’re having that time, we’re gonna be able to prompt you to tap to love nature and then send those funds out to the fantastic nature organisations that we’d be having this country to help them continue their good work. So, yeah, £1,000,000,000 15 to 20 years. That’s what we wanna do. 

Kelly Molson: It’s such a good idea. That’s a good idea. I love it. I’m genuinely buzzing about this. So this is all of the lovely things that I like to do. And I think like, you kind of you know what’s on your doorstep. But you don’t know enough of what’s on your doorstep. We are really lucky. We live just outside Cambridge.

We’ve got 3 or 4 National Trust places around us that we spend a lot of time. But, also, we spend a lot of time there. Right? You’re looking for new things, and you don’t always know the first place to go. You might kinda know some of the bigger things that are around. We’ve got Bedford Forest 45 minutes that way and, I don’t know, Brooksbourne Woods another 40 minutes that way. But what really is here? 

What can I do to support these brilliant things and keep them moving and keep them conserving the natural environments that were that are around us. It would be something that I genuinely would use. And I can’t believe no one’s done it. It’s one of those ideas that you go, “Does this not exist? Wow.”

Ant Rawlins: There’s a reason nobody’s done it. It’s because it’s been a pain in the ass, if I’m honest.

Kelly Molson: A labour of love?

Ant Rawlins: Getting all the content, getting it all done. There’s a reason it’s not been done, and it’s because it’s a hell of a lot of leg work. But, you know, yeah, there’s just so many beneficiaries of this that I’m really happy about, first of all, and everyday people thinking, “What can I do today, Joe?” “Alright. We’ll go there. Get outside”. We know it’s better for them. We know we know it makes us healthy. We know it gives us perspective. We know that, what’s going on in various different parts of the world doesn’t need to affect our day right now today. 

We know we can go away and escape from it all, and it’s not always Netflix and bills and this and the other, there’s more to the world than it gives us perspective everyday people. But the challenge people have is always it just seems really difficult for them. When I speak with one of the organisations that we do through Wildling, it’s really the interesting the number of people that will go on a day out to nature, go to a Forestry England place or a National Trust location or somewhere like that, park up in a car park, and then sometimes just stay in the car park. Or have their picnic, like, 10 meters from their car. 

The distance people go from the from the point that they actually get into these nature places is very small. Whereas me, I park in and just zoom out. I’m like, right, how far come from this car park point can I get and go and explore? But there’s a fear it doesn’t feel easy. It feels unnatural.

This is what how ironic that being in nature feels unnatural to us. And so our app needs to do one thing. It just needs to make nature easy for people, and that’s what it’s doing. Yeah, as well, of course, protecting it because we’ll want people to donate afterwards. 

Kelly Molson: I see. 

Ant Rawlins: But, yeah, in the final point I’ll make on it, Kelly, because you know talks. I know you’ve got me on this one. I’m sorry. I think it’s also gonna be pretty big for domestic tourism in general because you’re right. On your doorstep, you can find out what it is. But do you know what, Kelly? Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit Norwich. Maybe you’ve always wanted to visit there, and you like —

Kelly Molson: One of my favourite places. 

Ant Rawlins: There you go. Yeah. I’ll get an Airbnb, and then I’ll use it. I cannot find all these great places around me. The fact is wherever you are in the country. You’re gonna find these places are with the volume of places we have on here, you’re never gonna be more than a few miles away from a really great nature place that you can go and visit. So, again, it’s free. It’s for everybody.

Final point, I was speaking with Josh Croft, who’s their CEO of UK Inbound the other week, and Josh is a great guy. And he said from an inbound tourism point of view, he thinks it’s gonna be really big as well. He thinks that people coming into the UK using this app to it explore our natural environments, it would be fantastic. 

And one of our clients actually does bring about two million people into the UK per annum. And we know from the analysis and research that we’ve done that some of the primary reasons, particularly when entering the northern part of the UK, is for nature. And a lot of them, heading then they head up to Scotland and around Yorkshire.

But, one of the draws which I was a little bit surprised about. One of the draws of Europe near European visitors into the UK is nature and natural environments and wildlife. So, yeah, it’s great for inbound tourism as well. As domestic tourism, not to mention it’s making us all healthier. 

Kelly Molson: That’s really interesting, isn’t it? Like, having everything in one place, I hadn’t thought about how useful that would be to tourists to the UK. They haven’t got to slightly like you were doing, spending hours on 20 different websites trying to find all the different things around you. They literally go to one app, and it’s all there. It’s genius.

Ant Rawlins: We’re not we’re not stopping in the UK, Kelly. I’ll tell you that. 

Kelly Molson: I mean, I know this was coming.

Ant Rawlins: Yeah. Yeah. We’re not stopping it because I want to use this app for me when I don’t really know much about France. So I wanna get over to France. I don’t wanna be able to use my app to find all the fantastic nature places that I can go and, experience there. I’m in Germany, I’m in Spain, and so on and so forth. 

Kelly Molson: What I really love about this is it’s a wonderful example of you’re you know, it’s the combination of the passions that you have and the skill set that you have in the agency as well. And it’s just it’s an absolutely perfect design or what you can do to support nature, but, you know, what you can also do to help the attractions from the tourism organisations that you work with as well. So it’s just brilliant. How can we find out more about it? So it’s not launched yet. How do we find out more about it? How can our listeners get involved? 

Ant Rawlins: Well, I’m pretty confident that when it’s launched, any people are connected to Skip the Queue podcast will probably get a lovely email from Kelly. It’s here to download. So that solves our audience here. Yeah. It will be ready soon. I mean, it’ll just be available on the appstore. It’s called Wildling, and we’re gonna be there in a few weeks. Okay. Well. 

Kelly Molson: What we’ll do, we’ll put a link to as soon as it’s launched, we’ll put a link in the show notes again. And, yeah, look, listeners, you will definitely hear from me about this. I’ll be all over social media with it. Maybe email because I don’t mind a bit of email, but definitely Twitter. Maybe some LinkedIn. This is brilliant.

So this might be an interesting question for you because we normally end the podcast by asking our guests to recommend a book, but you don’t read that much. So do you have something that you would like to share with us? Whether it’s a book, a podcast, an audio book, what would you like to share with that listeners? 

Ant Rawlins: Do you know what? I will recommend a book and to end and probably just, correct the blemish on my character, Kelly. I do read a lot, but I hate it. So that’s the difference. And I’m happy I’m missing it. There you go. It’s it feels slightly sadistic in the end, really, reading, but there you go. The book I would recommend is called The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, and I think it’s amazing. It’s pulling my favourite book. 

Kelly Molson: Reason why? 

Ant Rawlins: I mean, Naval Ravikant, a bit of a legend. I mean, he is incredibly successful, but his book is really succinct short advices. It’s a collection and expansion of tweets that h’ve created over time. And he splits the book into 50, 50, 50 percent is kind of wealth creation and all that kind of stuff. And the other 50% is happiness.

And it just expands these points, but it’s just so digestible. Each little nugget is “Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. We should do that. I should do that.” So so I love it. Just I don’t I do not need fifty pages to tell me something when five words will do. And and so I love it for that reason. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant, I it’s pretty good. 

Kelly Molson: This is a book absolutely for me. And has not been recommended on this podcast as well. We’re building up such a great list of recommendations from our guests. That’s a good one. Okay. I’m gonna put that on my list. Listeners, if you wanna win a copy of that book, you know what to do. Head over to our picture account, retweet this episode announcement with the words if I want answered, and you might be in with a chance of winning it.

This has been such a great chat. Thank you. You’ve given such good advice to our listeners. We will put all of your contact details in the show notes. So if any of our listeners wanna get in touch and talk about some of the things we’ve discussed today. I know that you’re always super help happy to talk to people. 

We’ve put the marketing playbook download in the show notes too. So, honestly, go and get a copy of that. I’m sure that Olly’s not gonna let you have it for free for much longer, so grab it while you can. Before you have to give him an email. 

Ant Rawlins: And if you don’t mind, Kelly, I’ll be invoicing point about always happy to speak to people, but particularly have to speak to people of in a bit of a fix. I’m more than happy with the half hour count saying to you guys, do you know what? We’d be doing this, this is where I would go by the you just if it helps.

Kelly Molson: There you go. Look. They’re such good guys. Look at them. 

Ant Rawlins: I’ve learned this from my business partner, Simon. He’s the nicest guy. Simon Jones is the nicest guy. I’m not very nice compared to him, but he just super nice. 

Kelly Molson: Yes. He is very nice. 

Ant Rawlins: There’s a lovely industry. You know, there’s a lot of nice people, isn’t there, which is great. Is why a lot of us here probably know each other. We’ve spoken to each other, and we like each other. 

Kelly Molson: It’s a lovely place to be. As is as you Skip the Queue and now, you’ll Skip the Queue of them tonight. So well, welcome to the even lovely, a little segment within it. So thank you. It’s been lovely to chat. You’re a superstar. 

Paul Wright.
Kelly Molson Managing Director

Host of the popular Skip the Queue Podcast, for people working in or working with visitor attractions, she regularly delivers workshops and presentations on the sector at various national conferences and universities including The Visitor Attractions Conference, ASVA and Anglia Ruskin University.

Read more about me

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