Farhan Ahmed, Principal Lecturer (Teaching) / Programme Leader
Dr Martin Elliott-White, Director of Academic Development (Lincoln International Business School)
Prof Heather Hughes, Professor of Southern African Studies / Programme Leader
Liz Price, Senior Research Fellow
City of Lincoln Council funded an economic impact assessment of the Lincoln Christmas Market (LCM) in Spring 2013. The research report (by Liz Price, Martin Elliott-White & Heather Hughes) drew primarily upon existing datasets obtained through secondary research. It set out estimates for local economic impact, and identified that this is constrained by low visitor spend when compared with Christmas markets in similar historic cities. The report included recommendations which resulted in some changes to the market management strategy; including broadening the stakeholder community and changed pricing structures. The findings were widely reported in the local media, including interviews on BBC Look North by Farhan Ahmed.
A recommendation of the report was the establishment of an annual visitor survey to gather robust data on visitor experience and spend. Working with the LCM Stakeholder Group, Farhan Ahmed and Martin Elliott-White designed a student research project, which resulted in over 800 completed questionnaires from the LCM in 2013 and has since then been completed on an annual basis gathering circa 800 completed questionnaires annually – this continues to the present day and is linked to the level 4 module ‘TOU1014M – Investigating the Experience Economy’. The survey was and is continually monitored by academic staff, and students analyse some of the data for their own assignment for the stated module, thus achieving a key objective of ‘Student as Producer’. This student-led data collection and analysis approach to assessment and links with local industry have been hailed by External Examiners and colleagues alike as an exemplar of good practice as there are few, if any, modules that allow students to collect their own assessment data and then analyse it to produce a client focused report which is then be put forth to the City of Lincoln Council in a series of recommendations with potential real-life implementation and impact.
The work of academic colleagues and students continues from the original report in 2013 emanating from collaboration of the stakeholder group, academics and students. Building on survey data produced via research collaboration between students, staff and the LCM stakeholder group, analysis has seen the development of a longitudinal and comparative study to enable assessment of changing management practice at the LCM. The key objective is to improve the visitor experience and benefit the local community and economy, whilst allowing students an opportunity to produce, analyse and interpret data and experience one of the most high-profile events in the county all within the context of an academic module.
Impact & Success
Success of the project has been measured from the original work commissioned in the Spring of 2013. The research report (by Liz Price, Martin Elliott-White & Heather Hughes) drew primarily upon existing datasets obtained through secondary research. This report, one of the first of its kind to be produced for the Lincoln Christmas Market (LCM) set out estimates for local economic impact, and identified that this is constrained by low visitor spend when compared with Christmas markets in similar historic cities. The report also included recommendations which resulted in some changes to the market management strategy; including broadening the stakeholder community, changed pricing structures and operational procedures being reviewed and consequently changed. The findings were widely reported in the local media, including interviews on BBC Look North by Farhan Ahmed, amongst other media outlets as well. The addition of the visitor survey on an annual basis has seen the City of Lincoln Council being able to monitor visitor satisfaction for the past 4 years resulting in positive changes to the visitor experience being made, for example, the abolishment of the one-way system. Such as been the value of the original report and subsequent questionnaire data that the survey has been continually recommissioned with councillors and event organisers stating the value of such information. This has seen ‘impact activity’ being achieved from the university perspective hence this project can be deemed a success.
The principal outcome of this research is ‘impact activity’ and the achievement of the ‘Student as Producer’ objective. The research has endeavoured to improve the organisation and management of the Lincoln Christmas Market (LCM) for the benefit of the local community and economy. The data collection and analysis process contribute to the University of Lincoln’s ‘Student as Producer’ agenda as mentioned and encourage greater level of student engagement through active participation in local events.
In terms of disseminating information. The Business School Research Strategy 2014-2020 emphasises the need for research that generates impact for local/regional partners, and leads to high quality journal papers. This research will help fulfil these objectives by (i) assisting City of Lincoln Council and partners in improving the LCM for the benefit of the local community and economy; (ii) leading to a paper targeted at a high impact journal, such as Regional Studies; (iii) conference presentation at Regional Studies. The research and collaborative project also fulfils the need for interdisciplinary research emphasised in the Strategy. It encompasses tourism, sustainability and regional economic development, and involves staff from the Tourism & Events (VERG) and Rural & Regional Groups.
The findings were also widely reported in the local media, including interviews on BBC Look North by Farhan Ahmed. Since results are provided to the City of Lincoln Council, they also have been quoting findings through their own communication channels which operate on local, regional and national levels.
The staff-student collaboration continues into its fifth academic year in 2018 and will see the survey implemented again. In terms of milestones: (i) enable the continuing processing and analysis of the 2013-2018 LCM visitor surveys; (ii) conduct primary research with comparator cities to explore how to increase visitor spend and maximise local economic impact; and (iii) produce comparative analysis with similar Christmas markets in comparable historic cities.