Community Tourism Conference / Kendal / 22nd March
Despite the snow, blizzards and general weather madness Cumbria experienced last week the Community Tourism Conference, organised by ACTion for Communities in Cumbria, managed to take place.
A few people were unable to make it, Eric Robson tweeted ‘Sorry not to be chairing the community tourism conference at Kendal today. Snowed in I'm afraid’ and some delegates decided against it. My colleague Ruth Kirk was stuck in Shap so I stepped in and facilitated the Visitor Giving workshop and joined the panel at ‘Question Time’ on her behalf.
Delegates enjoyed a range of speakers who showcased great examples of tourism that benefits and involves local communities. A few key presentations stood out for me. Firstly, James Rebanks from Rebanks Consulting. His experience of problem solving the parking issues in Wasdale gave a real insight into the impact tourism can create on community life; In this case the impact of the ‘Three Peakers’ who arrive in the village at night and leave a lot more than footprints when they leave. James also spoke about the World Heritage Status application for the Lake District and the various benefits local communities will enjoy as a result of gaining the accolade. By achieving ‘Universal Value’ it creates an opportunity for the cultural treasures and true heritage of the landscape to be celebrated.
In a similar vein, Terry McCormick from ACTion for Communities spoke of the universal value of upland Hill Farming and the generations of farmers who have created the landscapes visitors are drawn to. As Cumbrian-based twitter fans are aware, @HerdyShepherd1 has generated amazing attention for his pictures and tweets which follow him and sheepdog Floss as they battle against the snow to protect their flock. The response demonstrates the interest and fascination in this way of life which is inaccessible and increasingly alien to the majority of people. Hopefully via the efforts of both Terry, James and Herdy Shepherd the stories, heritage and promotion of upland farmers can continue.
Thirdly, Jim Walker from Lake District Estates highlighted the range of actions his company takes to benefit local people. Despite his impressive list he also questioned if it was enough and asked what else could businesses do to benefit local communities? I personally thought that his approach could be a source of inspiration to many local businesses who, as he pointed out, often think that employing local people is enough of a local contribution. Ullswater steamers are great historic supporters and advocates of Visitor Giving and use it as one of their methods to contribute to projects that’s have both community and visitor benefit.
Fourthly, Hetty Byrne from the Forest of Bowland AONB gave a great presentation about the work they do with local tourism businesses to encourage local distinctiveness and pride in their destination. Similar in nature to the work we deliver in Eden via Nurture Eden, Hetty advocated the little ’wow’s’ the small things we may take for granted but which visitors absolutely love!
Finally as a workshop facilitator I missed the various workshops taking place by Cumbria Tourism, and ACT but can report a great response to Visitor Giving from delegates. We explored the benefits Visitor Giving creates for business, visitors and the destination and both groups created impressive lists and quickly understood the value of Visitor Giving to all three stakeholders.
So despite the weather the conference was enjoyed by all. I hope it will be repeated in the not so distant future to confirm and highlight the actions the tourism industry can take to ensure local people and communities benefit, a key pillar of responsible tourism.