Not too hot... not too wet – perfect mix to attract tourists
By Western Morning News | Friday, August 16, 2013, 04:00
"We in the South West are more than eight per cent ahead of last year – and this increase is well spread across the region," commented National Trust spokesperson Claire Bolitho.
"A good range of properties across the Westcountry are performing particularly strongly, including Stourhead, Killerton, Lanhydrock and St Michael's Mount.
"Weather is helping, of course," added Ms Bolitho. "Gardens are blooming and coastline is stunning."
Her colleague Allan King, spokesman for the charity's Wessex region, added: "Weather plays a huge part in whether tourists come to visit – but it is not as straight forward as good weather bringing out more people.
"In the heatwave last month, some places reported quieter days as visitors seemed to head for the beach rather than going out visiting places or shopping. What works best is just a nice pleasant summer with a lot of sunny days."
Rick Turner, who owns North Devon's Big Sheep attraction, is another person who speaks of both an eight-per-cent increase and weather.
"We are eight per cent up this year, overall," he told the Western Morning News. "There are more people coming down to the South West thanks to the weather we've been having, so we mustn't complain.
"But it doesn't help when the weatherman tells us things like the Gulf stream is in the wrong place and that we'll be in for bad weather – which is what he did earlier this year. They have difficulty with their longer range forecasts and tend to hedge their bets – I have photographs of weather charts promising rain when there wasn't any. And it puts people off coming down here."
Mr Turner said he believed the wider framework of the holiday season had changed this year: "June was quiet, as was July, despite the heatwave. But when schools broke up at the end of July we got very busy – and I think the whole frame of this year is about the school holidays. Fewer couples are coming out of season with small kids – so the shoulder periods are quieter."
The school holiday dash to the South West was noted by the motoring organisations: "When the schools broke up we saw that the region was the most popular place in the entire country," said Gavin Hill-Smith, a spokesman for the AA.
"It is consistently the most popular region for holidaymakers and the good weather will certainly have boosted visitor numbers this year," he added.
"The rural nature of the region means the road infrastructure struggles during summer when numbers swell. Holiday routes tend to get overlooked for investment as it is based on average traffic rather than considering the much greater seasonal peaks – for example: if you went past Stonehenge on the A303 during winter, you wouldn't queue at all, but summer is completely different."
Some holidaymakers in the region, though, have been letting the train take the strain – for a fun day out, anyway.
Paul Conibeare, general manager of West Somerset Railway, the UK's longest private line, commented: "We've really been encouraged by the weather – we were five per cent up at the end of July – and we are pleased with the season so far.
"And it's the weather which is helping, although our steam train crews get a bit warm in a heatwave and the locos can't drink enough water. Our retail shop had one of its best days last Friday.
"The only thing is you've got to work twice as hard for the same business, because people are keeping an eye on their money."
The tripartite link between the economy, the weather and tourism was also mentioned by Phil Knowling of Paignton Zoo: "Our numbers at this stage are up on last year – numbers had previously dropped almost in line with the economy," he told the WMN.
"Weather-wise, as a zoo we don't necessarily need what people imagine tourist attractions need – in hot weather people go to the beach. On a day when it's dry but breezy they will come to us. But overall the good weather is helping to bring people to the region – if they're not in the region, that doesn't help anyone.
"Lousy summers are bad for this region, but the indications are that we reached the very bottom last year both weather-wise and with the economy – now it's turning round."