Tourism and “The South West”.

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There is lot of speculation in the UK media around the impact of the recent “floods” on tourism especially on “The South West”. Clearly significant damage has been experienced across the UK and to varying degrees in most areas and regions of home countries and, especially but not exclusively, along the coast where storm damage over breach and tidal flooding has been has been major problem this winter.  Today’s focus is on the South West, which can be variously viewed by potential consumers as Cornwall, Cornwall and Devon but equally any combination of anything West of a line, say, Bristol Bournemouth? (or is it anything West of London!)  There is also significant problems in South and West Wales, some of which also falls into some people’s vague understanding of “The South West”.

My quick and dirty assessment is that at the international and national tourist board levels there needs to be work done, probably at a PR level, to promote the fact that Britain/England Wales Northern Ireland, the “South West” Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Bridgend, Swanse, Pembrokeshire and so on are very much open for business; preferably illustrated by folk enjoying those place now. I would be surprised if the international, national and any local area tourist boards were not already working on or doing this or something far more cleaver now.  But there is probably no harm in us asking them what is in hand and what can we do to assist, especial around arguing for addition resource for the task.

Whilst in real terms the break in the coastal rail link at Dawlish is probably not hugely significant to overall tourism numbers in England’s South West; the majority of tourists travel by road I think it currently represents the PR Achilles heel and the most important single avenue out of all the associated problems (I appreciate for some the lack of a rail link is an unmitigated disaster).    I may be wrong but for many the image of the broken rail link and the coverage and comment around it is saying that, “The South West (wherever you think that might be) is cut off and closed for business”.  If we are to do anything I think it should be to point the PR implications out and press to get that linked repaired as soon as humanly possible and, if necessary, at almost any financial cost.  If it costs double to fix it in two thirds of the time then it would be money well spent. Once fixed the brilliance of British engineering, the decisive action and the delights of one of England’s most scenic rail journeys needs to get as much, if not more coverage, at home and abroad than the physical break in service has.

I need feedback before acting, especially from those in, “The South West”.  Am I right or wrong, too late or just dabbling where British Destinations don’t actually need to? You are near to the problem and have had more need and spent more time assessing it. Views please.

Peter Hampson

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