Throngs of happy tourists in central London

Yesterday I journed to central London, primarily to attend the AGM of Prudential plc, and afterwards to become a tourist.

The Board of Prudential plc presented an excellent report of trading for the last financial year, after which attendees enjoyed a small stand-up lunch, and had the opportunity to talk to the board members, both of which yours truly took advantage of.

I wandered round Parliament Square, up Whitehall, past the Treasury, past Horse Guards Parade, into the Mall, then into Trafalgar Square, finally ending with a short visit to the National Gallery.

Parliament Square was populated with tourists, as was St James’s Park, and Trafalgar Square. With warm sunshine to accompany their tourisical adventures, happy faces abounded, including mine too. There’s so much to see in these parts of central London.

I did get to sit in front of Seurat’s painting of The Bathers in the National Gallery, though not for long. It was like meeting an old friend. Here are a few of photos of my tourist adventure.

The birthplace of British tourism

We’ve been away for a few days visiting friends in Herefordshire.

Last Friday we all walked along the banks of the River Wye, near Symonds Yat, also taking in the picturesque view of the Wye from the Yat Rock. This area is credited with being the birthplace of British tourism. It’s easy to understand why, when walking along the Wye valley and experiencing the view from Yat Rock. The variety of trees, flora, and fauna – lots of evidence of wild boar rooting around for grubs – is one of the attraction. All set against the charms of the River Wye itself. A good long walk gave us an appetite that was satisfied at Saracens Head pub in Symonds Yat.

This from the Wye Valley AONB website describes the beginnings of tourism in Britain,

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries it was fashionable to take a boat tour down the Wye Valley, to view its romantic sites and picturesque landscape. ‘Tourists’ dined at specific locations, took walks to particular viewpoints and visited specific romantic ruins, making the ‘Wye Tour’ one of the first ‘package holidays’!

Much of the demand was a direct result of a book, the first tour guide to be published in Britain in 1782, “Observations on the River Wye and Several Parts of South Wales”, by William Gilpin.

Here are a few photos – just a few, although I took plenty.

You’ve got to admire London’s ability to create visitor attractions

Did you know that a glass walkway was being created in Tower Bridge? Because, sure as hell, I didn’t.

Both the BBC and City A.M. have reports on the new glass walkway, along with some arresting images. This is yet another surprising tourist attraction for London, along with the London Eye and the Emirates Air line cable car, things that you wouldn’t have imagined would happen a decade or so ago.

Well done London, I say.

Camberley to host penultimate stage of Tour of Britain cycle race

Surrey Heath Borough Council today announced that Camberley will host the start of the penultimate stage of the 2014 Tour of Britain Cycle Race. At this evening’s council Executive Committee meeting will discuss an additional paper on the Tour of Britain 2014. This paper seeks approval “to enter into the Host Venue Agreement to pay £60,000, and to provide a number of services to enable the event to take place.” The Council is planning to recover this cost through sponsorship. The press release says,

“The Tour of Britain will return to Surrey Heath this September as Camberley hosts the start of the penultimate stage of the 2014 Tour, on Saturday 13th September. Stage Seven of Britain’s biggest professional cycle race will commence from Park Street in the centre of Camberley, before heading south through Surrey towards the South Downs.

Cllr Craig Fennell, Portfolio holder for Business at Surrey Heath Borough Council said: “We are delighted and honoured to be hosting Stage 7 of the Tour of Britain in Camberley. Park Street will be a real destination for people in the borough to watch the race, cheer on the cyclists and soak up the atmosphere. There will be lots of exciting announcements coming over the next few weeks and months.”

Stage Seven is provisionally scheduled to be the longest of the 2014 Tour at 220-kilometres, heading through West Sussex and East Sussex, and taking in the climb of Ditchling Beacon, to the finish on Brighton’s seafront.

“We look forward to visiting Camberley for the first time with this year’s Tour of Britain,” commented Race Director Mick Bennett, “And look forward to working with Surrey Heath Borough Council to make Stage Seven a day to remember for spectators.”

The 2014 Tour of Britain will begin in Liverpool on Sunday 7th September, finishing eight days later in central London with a double-header final day, featuring an individual time trial and circuit race finishing on Whitehall.

This year’s Tour of Britain will be the first ranked at the 2.HC level following an upgrade during the winter by the UCI, the sport’s governing body.

There are a number of official sponsorship and advertising packages available to local and national companies. For more information go to www.surreyheath.gov.uk/tob2014 or email: tob2014@surreyheath.gov.uk

The details of the cycle route from Camberley is,

The start location will be Park Street in Camberley, with the route then heading south out of the town centre, through Watchetts and Frimley, onwards past Frimley Lodge Park and finally through Mytchett before exiting the borough and heading into Guildford, then Waverley before leaving the county.

This is a notable coup for Surrey Heath, which I imagine will please the local cycling community and businesses.

London, a top worlwide destination city

It’s that time of year when there’s a flurry of market research reports. Yesterday, Euromonitor International released their report Top 100 Destination Cities ranking, a list of the world’s top cities in terms of international tourist arrivals in 2011.

London retained its position in the top 3, after Hong Kong, and Singapore. It’s interesting to note that London was the only UK city in the top 100, while Italy has four cities, USA has seven, and Thailand also has four. Shows how important London is to the UK’s tourist economy. Here’s the top 10 from the list [the final column is 2011 Growth %]:

Top City Destinations Ranking 2011            
Country City Rank 2011 Arrivals (000s) 2011 Growth(%)  
Hong Kong, China Hong Kong 1 21830.2 8.8  
Singapore Singapore 2 19818.1 8.7  
United Kingdom London 3 15106.1 2.7  
Malaysia Kuala Lumpur 4 13315.4 16.0  
China Macau 5 12925.16 8.4  
Thailand Bangkok 6 12357.4 12.5  
Turkey Antalya 7 12052.4 13.3  
China Shenzhen 8 10894.6 6.8  
USA New York City 9 10038 3.5  
Turkey Istanbul 10 9765.2 20.2  

Cultural tourism, is Surrey Heath missing out?

Tourism is something that the developed world enjoys, evolving from it’s modern beginnings with the Victorians, to its position today as a major industry in its own right. Tourism continues to grow, driven to some extent by an ever expanding population of retired people.

I don’t believe Surrey Heath is taking advantage of the opportunities that tourism brings. Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a new Thorpe Park in Surrey Heath, what I’d like to see is greater use of our green space and our cultural heritage. Both areas could be set up to generate income and enjoyment for visitors.

Just look at the evidence for a deficit of cultural tourism in our borough. Take a look at the Heritage Open Days website. Look at what’s on offer in the South East, and see how little is on offer in Surrey Heath. Case made methinks.

The government sees the London 2012 Olympics offering tourism potential. Do we in Surrey Heath? I’m not sure we do. This report interestingly says,

“… 80 per cent of tourism income is generated at home by day trips, business stays, holidays at home and visits to relatives.”

Again, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not suggesting that Surrey Heath Borough Council goes into the leisure industry. But it does have a role to play, pump priming I’d call it. Heck, we’ve the undoubted skills of Bob Potter to tap into, owner of the Lakeside complex.