Foul weather, beating the Australians and Blackpool are all on the mind of Tourism and Heritage Minister John Penrose…
This is a funny time of year to be thinking about domestic tourism, I suppose. Harsh winds and sleet do not lend enchantment to our seaside resorts, and the market for lazy long weekend breaks in late November is a slim one. But, for all that, the tourism business can’t afford to stand still, and experience tells us that the all-weather attraction can still do brisk business if it decks the halls with boughs of holly, roasts a few chestnuts and ships in a Christmas Market.
In this country, we’re rather good at all this, in fact. Indeed it’s often overlooked that Britain’s temperate climate actually works in our favour. The skiing resort that finds itself without snow, and the Caribbean paradise that sees a hurricane coming over the horizon are far less able to cope with business when the weather is against them, but British attractions have been rising to the challenge very successfully for decades.
Beating the Australians
Another thing we’re good at, I recently learned, is presenting ourselves to the world. VisitBritain, in fact, are rather brilliant at it and a couple of weeks ago came first in a poll of 220,000 consumers as ‘Best National Tourist Board’, beating Florida who came second and Australia who picked up the bronze. Beating the Aussies at something they traditionally do very well may – or may not – become a theme over the next few weeks, of course.
One lump or two?
As well as doing a brilliant job marketing us, VisitBritain also undertakes research to back it up – some of it quite mind-boggling. Last week, for example, they published results from an online survey on their award winning Facebook page, LoveUK, that tried to establish which way of drinking tea was the world’s favourite. It turns out that Earl Grey with milk, no sugar, is the international brew of choice. In France putting in a dash of milk is known as drinking à la British, apparently, and the practice is particularly popular in Germany, Canada, Brazil and the USA. Detailed research into international trends in sugar taking is also included. Nearly half of all people (46 per cent) take no sugar, while 27 per cent take one lump and 19 per cent take two. The favoured combination of liquid and sweetener deployed by the remaining eight per cent is not recorded but, to paraphrase* Star Trek, I can only assume that ‘it’s tea, Jim, but not as we know it’. By the time you get to page three of the release, incidentally, you’re looking at a pie chart explaining international preferences for best ‘dunking biscuit’, but let’s leave it at that**.
Turks and Caicos Islands versus Blackpool
Meanwhile the process to identify the next tranche of UK candidates for UNESCO World Heritage Site status moves on a step with the appointment of an expert panel to assess the 38 places that have put themselves forward for it. The people we’ve appointed come from a broad range of backgrounds which is just as well, as the runners and riders come in all shapes and sizes. I look forward to seeing their recommendations, if only to marvel at the methodological formula they end up with to draw out the ‘heritage value’ – if such a thing can be defined – of sites as diverse as Jodrell Bank and the Straits of Dover, Blackpool and the Forest of Dean. Oh, and while I’m on the subject, I fear I have to report slow progress on my campaign, announced in a previous blog to swing a ministerial visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands in the Caribbean, but if there are any developments, you’ll be the first to know.
*I know this is a misquote, by the way; a fact which I acknowledge simply because Trekkies, a single-minded and vociferous group that includes my predecessor-but-one in this job, are nothing if not relentless in their pursuit of the truth.
**It was the traditional digestive that came out on top, by the way, scoring 29 per cent. Incredibly, Jaffa Cakes picked up three per cent, which just strikes me as a simple way of ruining both biscuit and beverage; but each to his own, I suppose.