Industry Leaders Gather to Discuss Cultural Tourism in Cornwall

Golowan Mazey Day

Golowan Mazey Day - Credit: Archant

On Monday 17 March, leaders from the South West tourism sector gathered to consider and discuss the major issues, offerings and solutions at play within the region’s vibrant tourism industry. Foregrounded against the new BA(Hons) Cultural Tourism Management degree at Falmouth, that explores tourism activity inspired by creative arts, action sports, heritage and landscape, the day offered a selection of presentations punctuated by audience discussion

Malcolm Bell, Head of Visit Cornwall

Malcolm Bell, Head of Visit Cornwall - Credit: Archant

Tate Gallery St Ives

Tate Gallery St Ives - Credit: Archant

Convened by Sam Bleakley, international travel author and course coordinator for the new degree, the agenda saw involvement from a number of regional experts. These included: Malcolm Bell, Head of Visit Cornwall; Chris Hines, Co-Founder of Surfers Against Sewage & Owner, A Grain of Sand; Nick Hounsfield, Co-Founder & Director of The Wave UK; Manda Brookman, Director for CoaST; and Dr Jennifer Otter Bickerdike, Senior Lecturer at the University of East London.

Discussion began at the cultural tourism frontiers of Haiti where host Bleakley contextualised the Cultural Tourism Management offering and the practice as a whole. “We want to inspire a passionate culture of tourism management that celebrates; the importance of host/guest relationships; the sustainable and creative management of resources, landscapes and heritage; the balance between carrying capacity and authenticity; and the key role that digital environments can play in the future. ”

Highlights ranged from Dr Otter Bickerdike’s vignette into the realms of dark tourism, to an excursion into purpose-built cultural destinations in the shape of Hines and Hounsfield’s Wave Project – a soon to be launch man-made surf experience.

Malcolm Bell offered his thoughts on the sector’s response to recent flooding. Promoting a two-fold approach, Bell advocated resilience in the region’s infrastructure with responsive decision-makers at the helm to react quickly to future situations.

He also outlined the county’s tourism challenges, explaining: “Most destinations lead on either an environmental or cultural offer - we have both. Each year around 4.5 million visitors flock to Cornwall, bringing with them a variety of motivations. These sit on a spectrum; from the individual with a very specific passion, to the plus one who participates in something they weren’t even aware they were interested in… The very passionate people will always come - it’s the potentials that you want to reach out to.”

Bell continued, “The challenge is to avoid dumbing down the cultural experience, and to make it authentic. This means catering not just for the visitor, but the host community too. This notion of cultural and sustainable tourism is something we’re desperately keen to develop alongside our existing product.”

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Expanding on the concept of cultural experience, Manda Brookman Director of CoaST, the One Planet Tourism network based in Cornwall, closed the day’s event by presenting the Cultural Destinations bid, a £3 million Arts Council England funded scheme that’s just being launched across the country. In partnership with Visit England, the project hopes to increase the reach of arts and cultural organisations through integration with the tourism sector. Brookman explained: “Cultural Destinations is a grant programme to help England’s world class cultural sector take its place as a key part of our visitor economy.”

Based on a number of central activities, the programme will provide businesses and organisations with the infrastructure necessary to enhance Cornwall’s tourism offering, Brookman added: “Cornwall will receive over £340,000 to build new partnerships that add value and appeal to visitors, bringing significant investment into local communities, and the combined cultural and visitor economies. Together they will create a unique identity for the county, promoting the extraordinary cultural wealth on offer. Celebrating the people, the place and the weather of Cornwall in all their wildest forms, it is hoped that visitors will come specifically to enjoy the arts and culture year-round as well as attracting tourists already coming for summer holidays.”

The three-year project will work in partnership with regional art destinations, museums, Councils, Visit Cornwall, tourism businesses and the University’s new Cultural Tourism Management programme. BA(Hons) Cultural Tourism Management is currently recruiting students for September 2014 entry.

Keep up-to-date with the cultural tourism conversation on Twitter: @CulturalTM #makeitsustainable