Slamming the brakes on Stratford’s tourism?

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STRATFORD’S key tourism and retail leaders say they’re shocked and dismayed at the decision by Stagecoach to end its City Sightseeing open top bus tours in the town this winter.

For a critical six months of the year – in terms of much needed income – visitors will no longer be able to tour historic properties on the easily recognised red buses from November to April.

The news comes as a body blow to businesses in the town at a time when everyone connected to travel, retail and specifically tourism are doing everything they can to support the local economy.

The domino effect is obvious to see; without the option for visitors to hop on and off the red double decker tourism bus at their own convenience, business leaders fear tourists will choose to go to places like Bath, Oxford, Windsor and London instead thus boycotting Stratford town centre all together.

For many years Stratford’s connection with Shakespeare has given it international status but that could all change on Sunday 4th November when City Sightseeing withdraws its winter service for the first time ever for over 15 years.

It will resume on Saturday 13th April 2019, but the decision has been described by Joe Baconnet Stratforward Bid director as “short sighted.” Dave Matthews of Magic Alley in Bell Court fears the decision is a “terrible shame, which effectively reduces Stratford to a second class tourist town.” Meanwhile sources at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust – which could be worst affected by a possible loss in  visitor trade on the busses – say they’re disappointed that at no stage were they or other organisations in the town consulted by Stagecoach.

Philippa Rawlinson, director of operations and marketing at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust said: “We are naturally disappointed that Stagecoach has taken the decision to withdraw its City Sightseeing service in Stratford for the winter months. We and our partners in Shakespeare’s England are seeking to build on Stratford’s attraction as a year-round destination with new winter programming and initiatives to encourage people to visit more often and linger longer.  We are also taking every opportunity to press for improved transport links to strengthen the town’s appeal as one of the UK’s must-see destinations.”

While Mary Arden’s Farm is closed for the winter, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage remains open as do the other Birthplace Trust in Stratford, for thousands of winter visitors to the town the flexibility of the bus is an ideal way to visit historic attractions and enjoy some retail and food therapy as they stroll around.

Helen Peters, chief executive of Shakespeare’s England also things the decision is bad news for Stratford: “The biggest impact is likely to be on the Birthplace Trust and specifically the transport link and connection to Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and more importantly, due to distance, Mary Arden’s Farm.

This is an example of why it becomes more important every year for tourism businesses in the region to support their DMO so that we can continue to promote Shakespeare’s England as a destination. In the same way that RSC and SBT already do. It becomes more competitive every year as UK Tourism in all regions of the UK ups its game. No longer can you rely on saying ‘they will always come to Stratford’ when there are so many other iconic places also offering a great experience.”

So why has Stagecoach pulled the plug on what appears to be a popular and convenient City Sightseeing service enjoyed by visitors not just in Stratford but all over the globe?

Chris Child, marketing manager of Stagecoach Midlands said: “Stagecoach Midlands has taken the decision to not run a winter tour this year. As most people will appreciate the number of people wanting to take an open top bus tour during the winter months is minimal and we are therefore not able to run a service economically when we don’t have the demand.”

What do you think about the City Sightseeing bus tour ending this winter? Let us know news@stratford-herald.com

  • Dick Walker

    Sad news, however someone should start an amphibious bus, you know, the one that goes round the streets then goes into the river. I’m sure that would be really popular

  • 1jamessmith1

    As much as I applaud giving the town back to the locals who fund it with exorbitant council tax and parking fees, what’s wrong with a single Decker bus doing the same job? Hopefully now, the people doing these bubble gum jobs will learn

  • David

    I live in Stratford and like many other locals are increasing fed-up with these so called Trusts and Charities Pimping and Pumping up Stratford to fill there pockets with cash, they are NOT locals.
    Parking at home and just trying shop can be friggin nightmare. We don’t need any more tourists we have enough already, just give us the local residents a rest PLEASE.

    Phew I feel much better now 🙂

  • TGB

    Why should any business operate at a loss simply to please tourist organisations? If those organisations want the service to operate to their properties and increase their footfall and profits then they should subsidise the bus service to protect the operator from loss.

    Let’s not forgot that the SBT is an immensely wealthy organisation and applies for every grant and charitable handout on offer. They also made an undisclosed sum, clearly many millions, from the selling the “ransom strip” of land to developers building the Shottery housing scheme. If they want tourists to visit properties outside the town centre in the low season then let them provide the transport subsidy to allow it to happen. They can afford it.

    This town is far, far more than Shakespeare. Its social history is fascinating and complex; much more so than the Shakespeare connection and the heavily doctored and fancifully restored properties to which they are connected.