Monday, 16 August 2010

Visit Whitstable?

The transformation of Whitstable from a quirky and close knit coastal community to a mainstream visitor and second home destination has been more noticeable than ever this summer.
Never have more visitors been seen ambling aimlessly down the middle of the road or driving their precious darlings at high speed to their next wholesome educational activity in massive gleaming SUV's.

Tatty old beach huts become designer statements. More houses become holiday cottages or second homes. More litter is dropped. Residents can feel increasingly like animatronics dummy's at Disneyworld- being pointed at and asked the way to the nearest public toilet.
I have not yet seen any offical statistics but the EPICentre food and drink event on the opening week-end of the Oyster Festival was the most crowded I have ever seen the harbour.
For the first time, temporary loos had to be installed and the excellent SERCO rubbish team were working like demons to keep everything looking clean and tidy.
Most people who live and work in the town can see that tourism is having a massive impact. In many ways this can be positive. It allows us all to enjoy fabulous pubs and restaurants. It offers an opportunity for locally owned business to benefit financially from the towns increasing popularity as a visitor destination. The Harbour Village is supporting the WHIT card scheme so that local people are encouraged to use their local traders and local services all year around.
But tourism and leisure also creates a massive strain on the towns infrastructure at week-ends and in the summer months. This must be planned and managed effectively by local government even in tough economic times. Its not good enough just to leave it to local business to sort out.
Is this change being managed at all at the moment? What investment is planned in tourism infrastructure? Does anyone care what the impact of tourism will be on Whitstable in ten years time? Does anyone have a strategy for sustainable tourism so that the community benefits directly from visitor spend?
Somehow I doubt it..