Stratford CB: To be, or not to be?

When
Stratford-on-Avon District Council pulled the plug on Shakespeare Country, the
local conference bureau, local venue businesses let the authorities know what a
tragedy their politicians had authored.

The council withdrew its funding, forcing it to cease trading with the loss of
17 jobs. It had been responsible for promoting the tourist destinations of
Stratford-upon-Avon, Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick, Kenilworth
and the surrounding villages since 1997. Its website attracted more than 2.46
million unique visitors since April 2009 and it generated around £3 million
worth of press coverage each year.

“The news came on
1 April and we thought it was a joke,” Dave Matthews, CEO of local business
Seek the Magic, tells CN.

With Easter and
May Day coming and the council slow to react to the backlash, we had to move
very fast and set up a new tourist office. Not just Shakespeare is the new
office and website brand, based on Matthews’ existing tourism business in Henley Street.

“We have attracted
over 5,000 visitors since it began operation just six weeks ago,” he says.

The council,
meanwhile, on 15 May appears to have been shamed into reopening a tourism
information service. This is also based in Henley Street, but there is no website
nor paid staff.

Matthews’ staff
claims to have assisted up to 500 visitors each weekend, providing them with
information about the town, attractions and accommodation. 

“It does
appear the council is playing catch up,” says Matthews whose site, www.notjustshakespeare.org
includes a free venue finding service and is recommended by the council for
business tourism information.

“Along with its
key partners, we are dedicated to providing a world class tourism service for a
world class destination,” says Matthews. “We intend to lead the way and move
from being the oldest makers of magical giftware to establishing Not Just
Shakespeare as a global brand by the end of the year.

Councillor Mike
Brain, Portfolio Holder for Community Services, insists, meanwhile, the
council’s new Welcome to Stratford-on-Avon facility, operated by students from Stratford-upon-Avon College, will “provide a tourist office
which meets the needs of residents, businesses, visitors and tourists alike”.

Paul Colston

Author

Paul Colston

Managing Editor, Conference News & Conference & Meetings World.

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