23 February 2021
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 week. Here, we share our response to the question.
Today's question: How does one go about planning a holiday season during a national lockdown? Are there/Should there be several plans in place to prepare for a) the city reopening or b) the city remaining in lockdown for another 6 months or more?
The Cambridge Greens have long argued that we need to reimagine and transform the Cambridge tourism model. 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 that 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.
The pandemic has created the opportunity to move away from this model and invest in a sustainable and local model. The main obstacle to regional tourism is connectivity. This has been an unacceptable oversight as commuter towns like Cambourne, Northstowe and Waterbeach have expanded rapidly but relied almost completely on car access. With limited public transport links and roads notorious for heavy congestion, Cambridge remains inconvenient to access.
The solution is to invest now in fast, affordable and reliable, green public transport links across the region. We need a single, unified, ticketing system for public transport that makes travelling simple; our equivalent to an Oyster card. This would not only make intra-regional tourism more attractive, it would reduce the strain on housing, public services and congestion in Cambridge as it would have the added benefit of improving work commutes for many across the region.
Our response was written by Mark Slade. Mark is a secondary school mathematics teacher, NEU rep and the Cambridge Green Party's campaign manager.