Simon Baldwin

Simon has worked in communication his entire career. Qualifying as a journalist in the ’80s, Simon set up his own agency in 1988, aged just 22. Over the next 30 years, Simon’s business and subsequent incarnations managed the communication for clients in the retail, tourism and leisure industries across the U.K.

His primary focus was in retail: his company won a reputation for delivering successful marketing initiatives for shopping destinations. Through the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, his company worked with more than 100 shopping centre and retail parks across the country as well as working closely on numerous initiatives in the towns and cities where those retail destinations were based. He also delivered creative services and marketing solutions for a number of UNESCO world heritage sites and leading tourist attractions.

In 2007, Simon sold his agency and created the UK’s first ‘destination marketing’ team, becoming one of the UK’s earliest adopters of social media for commercial use – initially for shopping centres and then for the benefit of town and city destinations. On this front, he was a mentor on the Portas Pilot project, founded MallToMobile (to support the UK’s shopping centre industry) followed by SOCIALiSTREET (demonstrating how towns and cities could best utilise digital and social media).

In 2012, he set up Destination66 Ltd with his wife, Susan who brought a wealth of knowledge and many years of experience in the tourism industry. Three years later, they launched a unique service designed to support the digital and social media planning, delivery, monitoring and evaluation for places – towns, cities, rural estates and Business Improvement Districts.

In 2017, Destination66 created Destination Digital Ltd. In the same year, Simon led research into Scotland’s Digital Towns Programme, the findings of which were published in 2018, making recommendations for the creation of a new BID model – a Digital Improvement District. Destination Digital were tasked with running a 15-month demonstration project to prove the concept. CuparNow in Fife, Scotland, was the result – initially financed through seed corn funding by the Scottish Government, Digital Scotland & Fife Council. In December 2019 – after a seven-week long ballot – businesses and organisations across the town gave their support to CuparNow. The model was proved: ‘sustainable delivery of managed, integrated digital and social media communication and services in support of multiple audiences’. It created the world’s first Digital Improvement District with a five-year term (2019-2024).

Funded by businesses and organisations in the town, the results from the pilot were published in a Toolkit to help shape how digital is deployed to support towns across Scotland. The same information was submitted as evidence for the Scottish Government’s 2020 Towns Review.

In 2021, in response to evolving place-management research, Simon was instrumental in the development of a new model to deliver digital support across urban and rural destinations. This led to the launch of StrathspeyNow, a project built on the deployment of gigabit-capable broadband that has since connected homes and businesses across more than 50 square miles of Speyside in the Scottish Highlands. The project not only delivers transformational connectivity to residential and commercial customers but – as a result of customer subscriptions – reinvests a proportion of those subscriptions to deliver managed, integrated digital communication and services in support of businesses, community partners, culture & tourism groups, education & training providers, environmental initiatives, health and social care partnerships – all working to help deliver sustainable, economic development at a local level.

Through the research and development of StrathspeyNow – and subsequent projects exploring the same model of delivery – he became aware of the juxtaposed positions of different forms of broadband delivery, most notably the impacts (financial, environmental and social) of traditional ‘in ground’ fibre versus wireless deployment on which StrathspeyNow led.

A regular commentator on media channels, Simon advises place managers (and their key partners) on how they can best use the collaboration of available technology to support their destinations’ businesses, residents, visitors and community stakeholders.