Archive for the ‘Tourism’ Category

‘We need tourism but it must be sustainable’

February 26, 2012

A recent Cambridge News front page story misreported me as saying that day trippers should be banned from Cambridge because they were clogging the streets and making life difficult for city residents. Let me make my views clear and see if you agree with them or not.

Cambridge is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and nearly 5 million people visit it annually.  As living standards in ‘emergent economies’ such as China rise the number of visitors to the city can be expected to go on increasing steeply.  Cambridge is a small city with a compact historic core so the challenge is to manage tourism in such a way that we do not kill the goose that lays the golden egg.   As an example of what I mean, scores of punt touts in the city centre may be ‘serving the local economy’ but to the extreme annoyance of both residents and tourists.  Indeed, some will see parallels between what is happening in Cambridge and places like Venice where the sheer volume of people in the summer months makes visiting the city stressful and disagreeable. If visitor numbers to the city go on rising and robust management policies are missing there is a real danger that the historic core will be spoiled for both visitors and residents.

Mass tourism is a world-wide phenomenon with a momentum of its own but to get the benefits of tourism without spoiling this beautiful city we have to identify Cambridge’s ideal niche market and promote the city with that market in mind.  I have stuck my neck out and argued that Cambridge should, because of its size and character, seek primarily to attract long stay visitors with an interest in the city’s cultural and artistic treasures.  I have argued for a Cambridge Pass to give visitors exclusive access to many of the city’s major attractions.  I would also like tourist buses to use park and ride sites rather than prime parking spaces along the Backs.  Perhaps a hotel room tourist tax, similar to those levied on visitors to continental cities, might help pay for many of the services which tourists use and quite rightly expect when they visit Cambridge.  These suggestions need careful consideration and testing, but I am sure that we have to start thinking pretty seriously and pretty soon about how to make tourism sustainable, that is to preserve the city’s heritage in such a way that we hand on to future generations a city that they can enjoy living in and visiting as much as we do today.