Tourism minister will be pushing Stratford to domestic visitors
THE government will push Stratford to the domestic tourist market as the district’s attractions begin to open up to visitors once again.
Nigel Huddleston MP, minister for tourism at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, told the Herald that UK visitors would be an important part of the recovery for tourist areas such as Stratford.
The politician was in Stratford on Friday to visit Shakespeare’s Birthplace, which welcomed back visitors today (Monday, 17th May).
The minister was met by SBT director of visitor experience and business development, Rachael Boyd, and trustee Mike Huggins for a tour of the site.
During the tour, Mr Huddleston met with the teams for a behind the scenes look at some of the finishing touches being put in place to safely welcome visitors back.
He was also shown some of the Shakespearian treasures on display in the exhibition area including a rare copy of the Second Folio, as well as the Birthplace itself where he experienced the room-by-room QR code video tours narrated by historian, Michael Wood.
Mr Huddleston said: “Shakespeare’s Birthplace is an important part of the UK’s cultural offer and it was great to be able to see first-hand how support from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund has made it possible to reopen to visitors once again after what has been a difficult period for the tourism industry.
“I commend the teams for their hard work and enthusiasm in planning their recovery and they can now look forward to continuing their excellent work of engaging audiences with Shakespeare’s story.”
Later, he told the Herald: “We can’t risk places like this disappearing, we can’t risk them going They have been here for a very long period of time – they are part of our DNA as a culture, as a country.
“Many of them would have been at risk if we hadn’t come in and helped.”
He added: “I think they key thing we need to do is to make sure [attractions] can open and also do what we can to stimulate demand, to encourage people to come and visit these places again and that’s what I’ll be doing in my role as tourism minister.
“International travel is somewhat restricted, so we need to make sure that domestic visitors come to places that perhaps they haven’t been to before.
“Britain isn’t just about the coast, it’s about the inland areas and the cities as well.”
While he admitted there was no current idea when international tourists would return, he said: “We do want international visitor to come back, but that may take a while. And, of course, to places like Stratford, international visitors are really important so we will be marketing and pushing international visitors but there are restrictions there at the moment.”
The town's MP Nadhim Zahawi also stressed the importance of the domestic market to Stratford, including the district's own residents.
He said: “Stratford is the beating cultural heart of Warwickshire and I know it has been so difficult for our brilliant businesses, many of whom rely on the tourist trade, to shut their doors. I want to thank them for the part they have played to protect our NHS and save lives.
“Throughout the pandemic, the government has stood by business owners and workers with an unprecedented £352 billion support package, including the furlough scheme and business grants, to protect jobs and livelihoods.
“Following the great reopening, I’d urge Herald readers to be tourists in their own town – taking in a play at the RSC, or grabbing a bite to eat at any of the fantastic restaurants and cafes on Sheep Street.”