Saturday, 20 July 2013

The West County, East Devon and tourism

In today's Times:

Staycationers should be more adventurous and avoid jostling on over-crowded beaches during the heatwave, tourism chiefs have urged.
Popular resorts attract tens of thousands of visitors a day during the summer — even when the temperature is not touching 30C (86F) — with tourists missing out on many beautiful stretches of coast, according to VisitEngland.
Hidden sandy coves in Dorset and Northumberland and wildlife havens at beaches in Devon are often virtually empty during peak summer months, yet motorists on roads into traditional seaside resorts face gridlock and jam-packed car parks when they finally do get where they were going...
Why fight on the beaches, asks England tourism chief | The Times

And in the Western Morning News from today:

More than a million holidaymakers and daytrippers are expected to hit the roads for the Westcountry this weekend with the tourist industry reporting a huge spike in visitors from both  home and abroad. Bookings for so-called stay-cations are up by 20% in parts of the region as holidaymakers buoyed by the recent good weather are turning their backs on overseas visits in favour of a holiday in the Westcountry.
Forecasters are predicting the heatwave will continue into next week, with temperatures in the region reaching highs of 28C for the start of the school summer holidays, making it the longest prolonged period of such weather since 2006. However, those looking to take advantage of the recent sweltering temperatures by making last-minute bookings are having to compete with a surge in bookings from abroad, as Dutch, German and Italian visitors are up by almost 20% in some regions.
The news has provided a big boost to the Westcountry's tourist industry, with some accommodation providers boasting near-record figures, and a welcome reprieve after a succession of disappointing summers.
Alistair Handyside, chairman of the South West Tourism Alliance, said interest had soared since the weather improved this month. "I think it's the summer to stay in England," he said. "The website traffic of all the people we have spoken to has been very good. People will come down for a week, but then there's a lot of people who come down for a day. There will be lots more of those visitors. I think if you talk to most businesses they have been keeping their fingers crossed for this weather. It's been a long time coming. It's been five or six years since we had a weather like this and the businesses need to make the most of it. Long may it continue."
Carolyn Custerson, chairman of VisitDevon, said the county's biggest operators were reporting a 20% uplift in bookings for July and August. "There's is no doubt that this good weather has caused an uplift in people either taking a short break or a day trip," she said. "Some providers are reporting their strongest bookings for five years."
Dick Cliffe, chairman of Penzance Chamber of Commerce and a guesthouse owner in the town, said he took record takings for June, and July is shaping up to be similar, with a lot of tourists coming from abroad. "We have just had a constant stream of Dutch, Germans, Italians and Swiss." he said. "The demand now is amazing. The phone hasn't stopped ringing. The majority of times we only had a few rooms left. The town is packed out."
Westcountry braced for a million visitors as heatwave continues | This is Cornwall

This is a piece from the Sidmouth Independent News from earlier in the year:

No – not if its track record is anything to go by.  EDDC does not have much interest in tourism, except where it impacts on the development (potential housing or industrial land) of  of members of the East Devon Business Forum, even though, according to the Western Morning News, the industry employs 90,000 people in Devon and Cornwall and is worth an estimated £4 billion-a-year.

Who fights for tourism in East Devon?  Well, it isn’t the East Devon Business Forum, although Councillor Graham Brown (really you could not make this up!) is the EDDC “Champion for Business and Tourism [shurely shom mistake: shouldn't that be Champion for Business OR Tourism -ed?].
If you look at EDBF’s attendance list and minutes the main attendee with an interest in tourism at their meetings is the group that owns Crealy Adventure Park – but they mostly bleat on in the EDBF meetings about how many houses they want to build on land they own in the area.  Occasionally, but very infrequently, there is attendance by Pecorama or Seaton Tramway, but they rarely seem to attend two meetings in a row.
Their interest the first Local Development Framework Panel included ensuring that the large caravan park at Ladram Bay could be extended for a member of EDBF and that those EDBF members with tourism interests could also be accommodated in the Local Plan – though often for development of housing or industrial land around or beyond the tourism spots they own.
Yet, look at other parts of Devon.  We heard yesterday via the BBC website that
Torbay is getting more than £1.4m to help revive its struggling economy.  The money is among four handouts from the government’s Coastal Communities Fund for seaside areas.  Other beneficiaries include South Hams District Council, which will receive £450,347. Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust will get £150,000, while Plymouth City Council will receive £670,400.  In Torbay, which has the highest unemployment rate in Devon, the money is expected to create 350 jobs.  The Coastal Communities Fund was created in 2012 with money from the Crown Estates marine assets. 

Does anyone recall East Devon District Council or the East Devon Business Forum going in to bat for the coastal communities in East Devon for this money?  No, they prefer to get the private sector to fund “improvements” by building hotels or supermarkets or concentrating solely on retail opportunities that bring in a rates income for the council.
Torbay’s share, which followed a bid by Torbay Development Agency, will support the development of start-up businesses, social enterprises and an apprenticeship scheme and a new cycle route around Cockington.  Plymouth also hopes to build more cycle lanes, linking the Barbican, the Hoe and the Royal William Yard.
SMALL businesses, social enterprises, apprenticeships, cycle routes … ah, the good old days.
When you go on to the EDDC website and search on tourism, you get sent to the website of another organisation (Heart of Devon) which covers the whole of Devon and there is also a list of Tourist Information offices in East Devon (many of which are fighting for their lives after support was withdrawn from most of them by the council), as well as a few generic links such as “beaches and coast”.  However, there are also several links to EDDC revenue-generating assets such as car parks, Thelma Hulbert Gallery and the Manor Pavilion.  There is also a link to the Blackdown Hills AONB (of course!).  It isn’t exactly a riveting site for the would-be-visitor.

Perhaps Councillor Brown should turn his attention to the tourism part of his “Champion” job and to his stewardship of flood-hit Feniton for a while, though probably they will become MUCH more important as elections come due in May 2015.  Though maybe having taken care of Feniton so well, he might want to stand in another area of the district that needs his deft touch for spotting even greater economic and business potential.

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