Monday, 14 March 2016

Newspaper column 16th March 2016 - Supporting the tourist industry

We have just enjoyed a beautiful weekend in Cornwall, the daffodils are blooming and spring is in the air.  This is a taste of the summer ahead and with Easter approaching, the tourist season will begin again in earnest.

The Economist recently noted that Cornwall has enjoyed a growth in off-season visitors as our winter tourist offerings of art galleries, fine dining and long walks become more popular.  But the summer season remains the core of our tourist calendar and our chance to welcome visitors to our beautiful county.

Tourism is the major employment sector in Cornwall, especially in Newquay, and our economy would suffer without the significant revenues that visitors bring to the county.  However, the tourist industry continues to suffer from a reputation of low wages and low job security, issues that the Government is seeking to address.

When the Prime Minister visited The Lost Gardens of Heligan last summer he launched his five-point plan to support the tourist sector.  The first point in this plan was in respect of the tourist industry landscape.  It was recognised that a more co-ordinated marketing approach is required, especially in relation to overseas visitors.

So with this in mind, I was pleased to meet with Visit Britain recently.  I learnt that over half of the overseas visitors to the UK only visit London. Our challenge is to spread the word that Cornwall offers a myriad of activities and destinations, and Visit Cornwall is instrumental in aiming at that goal.

Closer to home, over 1 million people visited the Eden Project last year, the majority of these being visitors from outside of Cornwall.  I think I stand on pretty firm ground when I speculate that many, if not most, of these visitors did not linger long in the wider St Austell and Newquay area.  Again, this is a challenge that we need to address through our marketing initiatives.

The Government is working hard to secure apprenticeship positions and these are especially important to the tourist sector.  We need to attract talented young people to sustain and grow this important industry for the future.   Should Space Tourism become a reality in Cornwall we will have a whole new market to cater for.

The tourist season brings challenges as well as opportunities.  Our county welcomes visitors, but they can increase the burden on our already-stretched infrastructure.  I am also conscious that the seagull-nesting season is upon us and recently met with a number of interested parties to discuss their approach this year.   I will be following these issues closely as the season progresses.

As I look ahead to the summer I am reminded of the regattas, carnivals and feast weeks, our uniquely Cornish events that help to strengthen our community bonds.  So with the season about to start, let’s look forward to a bumper summer for Cornwall.

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