Wednesday, April 25, 2007
The Chart that tells the tale
You don't have to look far to see where it's all been going wrong.
This is a graphic showing the number of bed night stays in Torbay Borough per year for each year since 1990 when the Lib Dems first took control of Torbay.
The figures, obtained from the Town Hall, show a revealing ongoing and relentless decline exept for two years - 2001 and 2002, when the council was briefly in blue hands.
Now there have been very many, including -it has to be said many Conservatives; who spent the 1980's and early 1990's anticipating the end of UK tourism and diverting resources and effort away from our core industry. 'Diversification' was the name of the game and it was partly a promise of new jobs for local people that won the Lib dems enough support to win control again and again in the 1990's.
The problem is that in diverting resources away from hospitality and tourism the bay has been allowed to decline into decay. The short boost in 2001 shows that returning the focus back to keeping the streets clean and the flower beds blooming can have an instant effect.
I believe that residents have recognised that, even if UK tourism were in decline (and so far there is no evidence to support this -UK tourism numbers are up and the number of people coming to Devon is at a record high) our best hope is to grab a bigger slice of that market, not give up on it and try something else.
The very thing that makes our location perfect for visitors and tourists also makes our location poor for manufacturers and distributers.
I advise and consult with hundreds of larger manufacturing and distribution businesses and none of them would choose a location on the coast because 1) It's the furthest point from most customers and 2) half the catchment for both staff and customers is sea. To put it bluntly, the only way to compensate for the unavoidable drawbacks of our location is either very big grants or very low pay.
If we return some of the glamour and quality to the Torbay experience we can thrive as a location for the millions of visitors coming to the South West; and we can continue to be an attractive location for people to retire to; that in turn supports the shops and small businesses that make up the local economy and provide jobs and prosperity.