Cornwall tourism chief wants to cut summer visitor numbers

Malcolm Bell wants to spread tourist numbers in Cornwall more evenly throughout the year. Credit: LDRS / ITV

Cornwall’s tourism chief has called for moves to cut the number of people visiting the Duchy in the summer and increase winter tourism instead.

Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall, also said that Cornwall could be a pilot area for a new register of accommodation providers.

His comments were made in a presentation about a Sustainable Tourism Strategy which is being drawn up to look at how the tourism industry should operate in Cornwall.

The document is aimed at improving the industry while making it more sustainable and environmentally friendly.

Mr Bell spoke about the strategy at a meeting of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) on Wednesday 31 March.

Huge numbers flock to Cornwall in the summer holidays every year.

The Visit Cornwall boss told the LEP board that there were around five million people coming to Cornwall on holiday each year. He also revealed there are a total of between 24 and 25 million bed nights stayed.

The combined visitor related spend for those on holiday and those on day trips is more than £2bn every year, according to Mr Bell.

However, he said there was a need to make the county's tourism economy more sustainable and one way to do that would be to increase the number of people coming on holiday all year round.

Mr Bell said that the largest proportion of visitors come to Cornwall during the school summer holidays in July and August, and warned there was a danger of “over tourism” in those months.

He argued that there should be an aim to keep the number of visits in July and August at the same or a lower level than rates in 2019 but instead encourage growth of 20% in the winter and off-peak months.

Mr Bell said that as well as boosting tourism income by around £200m it would also ensure more full time year-round jobs in the industry and aid career progression in tourism.

He also said that there was a need for more “premium quality” accommodation such as premium campsites and lodges.

The rise of Airbnb and other providers had led to some “lower point of entry” accommodation but Mr Bell stressed that “there are some great providers on Airbnb”.

However he said that he felt that there needed to be some kind of register of accommodation in Cornwall so that they could keep track of “over supply”.

He added that he had a “controversial, and maybe very controversial” idea about a licensing scheme for holiday accommodation.

The Visit Cornwall chief also said that there is a need to focus on the environment. “We are already a leader as an area in green tourism but we need to crank it up a bit more," he said.

He added that there is a need for the tourism industry to have more engagement with the local community about the impact tourism has on local people and to ensure that it is sustainable and positive.

A mission statement provided in the strategy states: “We will work together to deliver managed wise out of season growth that increases the value of tourism whilst positively enhancing the benefits of tourism across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in order to improve the quality of life of residents, visitors as well as the quality and diversity of the environment and nature.”

Credit: Richard Whitehouse, The Local Democracy Reporting Service

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