St Ives gets ready to welcome G7 world leaders

Carbis Bay Beach in Cornwall

The private Carbis Bay beach sits in St Ives Bay - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

The world's most powerful leaders are set to descend on Carbis Bay this summer -  how has this tiny corner of St Ives Bay has been preparing for its debut on the world stage?

Cornwall’s poised for a particularly busy summer with visitors expected to flock to the county for a well-earned staycation following a challenging year. 
Among those will be prime ministers, presidents, and delegates from across the globe, as well as members of the world’s press, who’ll be heading to the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay.

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there are ongoing discussions as to who will appear in-person and online, but leading representatives from the UK, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan, as well as invited guests from the EU, Australia, India, and South Korea will be taking part. 

It means Cornwall is set to be a focal point for much of the world from June 11 to 13 when the summit takes place.

Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate overlooking its private beach

Carbis Bay Hotel & Estate overlooks its private beach - Credit: https://www.carbisbayhotel.co.uk/

High on the agenda will be the economic repercussions of the pandemic, as well as the role of green innovation, which is why Boris Johnson hailed Cornwall ‘the perfect location for such a crucial summit’ when the announcement was made back in January.

‘Two hundred years ago Cornwall’s tin and copper mines were at the heart of the UK’s industrial revolution and this summer Cornwall will again be the nucleus of great global change and advancement,’ Johnson stated in a press release that described Cornwall as ‘a powerhouse for green innovation’ and a leading example of the role rural areas might play in ‘the decarbonised, digitised world of tomorrow’. 

Leaders will converge at the Carbis Bay Hotel, which overlooks a pristine private beach. Delegates will also be accommodated in nearby St Ives, including the Tregenna Castle Resort, and there will be a media hub at the National Maritime Museum Cornwall in Falmouth too. 

These locations are set to provide striking backdrops when images of the summit are beamed to news outlets across the world. It’s the sort of marketing money can’t buy, which is why local residents and business owners are keen to maximise the coverage and reveal there is more to Cornwall than pasties and Doc Martin

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‘The G7 Summit will not only showcase the beauty of the local area but also gives the county the opportunity to highlight the range of industries and sectors we have here,’ says Helen Tripconey, who’s the manager of St Ives Business Improvement District (stivesbid.co.uk). 

Helen Tripconey from the St Ives Business Improvement District

Helen Tripconey - Credit: St Ives BID

‘Locally, the St Ives economy has lots to shout about. Our town centre is home to a diverse number of businesses from local enterprises to international firms and we have one of the most thriving high streets in the country with very few empty shops. We’re also benefiting from a boost in infrastructure works as the area prepares for the summit, including road improvements and verge maintenance, which will have a lasting legacy here in the town.’

Dawn Bright who runs Guided Tours of St Ives is also delighted by the prospect of presenting Cornwall to a global audience ‘not just as a tourist destination but as an innovative, forward-looking region with a fantastic quality of life’. 

‘My hope is that it gives Cornwall a big boost in inward investment that creates high quality employment, enabling our brightest young people to stay in Cornwall and for others to come and live here. I also hope it gives us all a big psychological boost and gives us the confidence to pursue a positive growth agenda into the future,’ she says.

‘Whether we achieve that will, in part, be down to how we use the opportunity to showcase Cornwall to potential investors - in space technology, in green energy, in our creative sectors and many more. I just hope our media’s balanced in its coverage and promotes the Cornish as a welcoming, kind, forward thinking and hard-working people who are fortunate enough to call this most beautiful of counties home.’

As you’d expect with an event of this magnitude, there has been some discourse. In the spring, environmental campaigners gathered at Carbis Bay Hotel to protest against developments to the estate, and there is reportedly further protesting planned during the summit. A mammoth security operation is likely to see more than 5,000 officers from Devon and Cornwall police being drafted in, as well as certain areas being restricted, and disruption to local rail services.

But the government insists it’s focused on ‘providing a positive legacy for Cornwall that extends long beyond the Summit itself’.

Carbis Bay Hotel outdoor pool

The outdoor pool of Carbis Bay Hotel - Credit: Simon Burt/carbisbayhotel.co.uk

Paul Sampson, who runs the popular Instagram account @a-cornish-life and recently moved to Carbis Bay believes the ‘G7 is, on balance, a very good thing for Cornwall’.

‘I’m hopeful in the long run it may encourage more people to live and work in the county, which will in turn diversify our economy away from tourism and improve living conditions, infrastructure, and facilities for the Cornish people. Moreover, Cornwall is full of ecologically minded people, so if the environment policies on the G7 agenda can encourage green investment in our county, then that can only be a good thing.’

In April, Boris Johnson travelled to Truro to unveil a £23.6million investment to help it become ‘a modern economic, cultural and green capital for its residents and the wider community by 2030’. 

Visit Cornwall also estimates the total economic benefits for the region from hosting the summit will be £50 million by showcasing Cornwall to new travel markets.

‘We want to remind overseas visitors there is much more west of Bath to explore, to give a different view of what the seaside is like in Britain as people tend to think it’s piers, pebbles and kiss me quick hats, and highlight the county’s diversity and Celtic history,’ says Malcolm Bell, chief executive of Visit Cornwall,  who’s also keen to promote the county as a year-round destination. 

St Ives harbour and beach

St Ives will see much of the G7 action - Credit: Ewen MacDonald

‘Basically, we cannot have any more growth in July and August and in fact have to manage a slight reduction.This year will prove there is a limit and will probably go beyond it, so all future growth has to be in the areas which needs it, like south east Cornwall, which tends to be forgotten, and the winter months. If we could encourage 20 per cent more visitors in January, and 15 per cent extra in February and March, which equates to about a quarter of the visitors here in July and August, that would generate over £250million worth of extra activity but wouldn’t impact on the quality of life of local people. In fact, it would add to income potential. The challenge is in delivering that but the G7 gives is the opportunity to start the narrative of this change.’

There are grumbles from disgruntled locals that the last thing Cornwall needs is more tourists, but Bell believes it’s important to welcome the influx of visitors, especially this year.

‘Last year was quieter than 2019 but didn’t feel that way because it didn’t get going until July 4th. This year will be a lot busier but there are 53,000 people employed in the visitor economy in Cornwall directly and indirectly, so Cornwall does need that pay cheque,’ he says. 

‘We can also play our part in the recovery of the country by allowing families to come down and make lifelong memories after a tough year. We’re fortunate enough to live here all the time, so let’s be generous for the summer and accept other people are allowed to create memories where we live.’

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