I have over the past few months listened with interest to various conversations about tourism in Herefordshire and worry about the cuts that have been made in the county to what I would believe is a fairly major player in such a rural county. I believe the income reported at the tourism forum in 2010 was around £415 million into the county, which to me is a massive amount of money.
We have 180, 000 people living in this county and this is swelled massively in the main season by tourists who need help and guidance and yet our council deemed it a cost effective measure to close all but one TIC. However with these cuts to the TIC’s it was trumpeted that Ross-on-Wye would be the counties hub, but most local people in the area knew that it was closed for much of the last long bank holiday due to staff shortages – is this the real way forward for such an important contributor to this magnificent county??
A further decision was to dispose of the tourism operation in the county into the private sector and this has started with great gusto by Sir Ben Gill and the team now operating from Kings Street in Hereford. This body whilst being a membership organisation, is not accountable to anyone at present and whilst the team are making great strides to marketing the county, it is absolutely vital that everyone who operates in tourism in the county joins up as members to ensure that the marketing of the county is undertaken and the ethos of Visit Herefordshire is continued from the success of the past.
Whilst Sir Ben’s speeches decry the past in order to try to become more strategic, the Association for the Promotion of Herefordshire & Visit Herefordshire were very successful considering the constraints they worked in, something the new visit Herefordshire does not have to worry about, so long as it can keep the funding coming in.
Tourism in Herefordshire is not just about Visit Herefordshire as we all have to play our roles in promoting the county and being positive about this, but whilst we can do this when the guests arrive, we still need that single body to be out their championing our cause to the rest of the UK.
It is vital therefore that, despite these major changes to what we have been used to, that we get on board support, question, encourage and push Visit Herefordshire to make sure the future is rosie for years to come.