21 July 2020
What is Talking Points?
Cambridge News asks a representative of each local political party to answer a question on a local issue in just 300 words. The answers are then published in the physical copy of the Cambridge News every fortnight. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's Question: How can tourism be boosted in the region following the pandemic?
The question should not be how we can boost tourism but how we can reimagine and transform it. The uncomfortable reality is that the Cambridge economy has been too reliant on an unsustainable model of tourism. The vast majority of the millions of tourists that visit Cambridge are day trippers; arriving in heavily polluting coaches, large groups get dropped off, spend an hour or two, and then get back onto coaches. Often, these coaches can be found idling with engines on, to keep the temperature optimum for their customers.
The actual spending and contribution to the local economy per visitor is relatively low; income generated from tourism relies on the huge numbers. To what cost? The environmental impact of day trip tourism is significant; from air pollution to the huge quantity of single-use plastic waste. The local authorities have to manage the cost, through litter-picking, recycling, public toilets and traffic management, while receiving little direct income from this model. Like many others, I avoid the city centre during the summer because the crowds are suffocating and atmosphere manic.
The pandemic has paused international day trip tourism; we need to create disincentives to stop it returning. Instead, we must encourage local tourism and international tourists to stay more than a few hours. This can only work with fast, affordable and reliable, green public transport links across the region. We desperately need a single, unified, ticketing system for public transport that makes travelling simple; our equivalent to an Oyster card. This would also make intra regional tourism more attractive to locals and make longer stays more attractive.
The reduction in day trip tourism and millions of tourists cramming into our small market town, should make visiting Cambridge more attractive to people within the region. Let’s start that transition now.
Our response was written by Mark Slade. Mark has been the co-convenor of the Cambridge Green Party since 2015. He grew up in the city, is a secondary school mathematics teacher and a co-director of Deleted Scene; a local business that produces live entertainment events.