The rush is on to repair Island’s tourist industry

By Keith Newbery

Published on Friday, September 07, 2012 - 11:15


The rush is on to repair Island’s tourist industry

Does the scooter rally actually do the Island any good?

THIS ISLAND LIFE POLITICS is fond of cliches, to which it often applies the far more self-important soubriquet of 'adages’.

One of the most popular in recent years was used in regard to New Labour’s laissez-faire approach to the economy.

Gordon Brown, in particular, was accused of 'failing to mend the roof while the sun was shining’ — thereby leaving everything beneath at the mercy of the elements.

This metaphor kept popping up during debates at Westminster and is a criticism which could justifiably be directed at the IW Council and its attitude towards tourism.

Not only did our local authority ignore the gaping holes when the climate was more equable, it even ripped off a few extra slates for good measure.

Tourist information offices? Why would we need them in this hi-tech, digitalised age, when everyone has information at their finger-tips?

Public conveniences? We can shut a lot of them down, sell off some of the sites and tell people to cross their legs or use pubs and shops.

We were, in effect, telling tourists: 'Welcome to the IW. Find your own way around and with a bit of luck you may even come across a public toilet’.

It was a rash, thoroughly ill-conceived contribution to the spending cuts — and when the monsoon arrived during the wettest summer for 100 years, it left the Island looking wet, forlorn and distinctly sorry for itself.

Now the rush is on to patch up the perforated roof, with council leader David Pugh suggesting a £100,000 injection into winter promotion, but it’s probably too little, too late.

Four key factors conspired to compound the problem:

The state of the economy.

The weather.

The appalling publicity generated by the pop festival debacle.

The fearsomely prohibitive cost of getting on and off the Island.

There was nothing anyone could do about the first two but the others were entirely avoidable.

It’s now quite obvious there were no meaningful contingency arrangements in place to deal with the consequences of severe weather at the festival, despite all the vague blather emanating from County Hall — and the ferry companies have been giving the Island a bad name for years.

They know they have a captive audience and have been rinsing them for as long as I can remember.

But the 'grab it while you can’ approach seems to have backfired, with Wightlink announcing the introduction of its winter service two months early, though there have been so many delays and missed sailings caused by 'operational reasons’ this summer it will be hard to tell the difference.

It’s time the various factions which comprise the Island tourist industry got together with the council and the ferry companies to formulate a coherent business and promotional plan for next summer.

Some awkward questions have to be asked, foremost among them being whether events such as the scooter rally actually benefit the Island or are, in fact, counter-productive.

Devoting an entire holiday weekend to the needs of a pollution-generating minority may actually deter more traditional holidaymakers.

These are people, you may recall, who pay to stay at hotels and guesthouses and do not need some laws of the land temporarily suspended on their behalf in order to have a good time.

The Island should return to its strengths, by focusing on family holidays.

And it shouldn’t take much imagination to come up with ways of attracting the attention of national newspapers, magazines and other media outlets to help publicise the delights of this beautiful place and get its most important industry back on track.

A growing problem for phones in the summer

VODAFONE is the world’s second largest mobile telecommunications company.

It owns and operates systems in 30 countries, has partner networks in 40 others and, at the last count, had almost 440 million subscribers throughout the world (God bless you, Wikipedia).

But it doesn’t realise, apparently, trees have a tendency to grow.

Now, I’m not the first person people turn to when they encounter problems of an arboreal nature but even I realise trees have a tendency to increase in size and sprout leaves at certain times of the year.

But this wonder of the natural world appears to have eluded Vodafone, because when complaints started to arrive about poor reception in and around Shanklin, the company blamed it all on trees.

Apparently, some had had the nerve to grow even more leaves than usual during this wet summer and impaired the signal from one of its masts.

Even as we speak, the company is busy finding out which ones were preventing some citizens of Shanklin from phoning their wives to inform them the Co-op had run out of low-fat yoghurt.

They will then request the rogue trees 'be lowered’.

This idea could well catch on and provide Vodafone with a new promotional slogan: 'We serve the world — no branches anywhere’!

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