02 Nov 2017
I am looking forward to attending the Rural Entrepreneur Live event at Birmingham’s NEC next Wednesday (8 November 2017). In readiness I have dusted off a recent blog I prepared on the importance of the ‘Staycation’ to the South West economy, which was first published for Insider back in July.
Travelling with a young child is not easy. Not only is there the challenge of packing everything you need into too few suitcases but you need to keep the toddler entertained during travel and be on full alert in the hottest of climes. And that is if things go well. Last summer my three year old daughter caught chicken pox on holiday in Italy. Had we been on holiday in the UK we would have simply driven home to our creature comforts.
Our experience was simply bad luck. But, I have to say that those events made us think, should we stay in the UK this year? We are not alone. Holidaying in the UK is a popular choice that many of us are increasingly making. According to VisitBritain 44.7m holiday trips were taken in England in 2016, 2 per cent higher than in 2015 and 12 per cent higher than in 2008. Whilst the total number of holidays each year has fluctuated the ten year trend for England shows growth.
Source: GB Tourism Survey
The 2008 global financial crisis and the 2009 UK recession corresponded to a significant boost in the growth of domestic holiday trips in England, perhaps the two doing more to promote the Great British holiday than anything for some time. The change in exchange rates between the Pound and other currencies have helped. The ‘weak’ pound makes the traditional Mediterranean holiday not as value for money as it once did – paying in Pounds for a 10€ pizza is 16 per cent more expensive in July 2017 than it was on the 23 June 2016 and nearly 30 per cent more expensive than two summers ago.This is not yet as staggering a change as in 2008, but significant nonetheless for British holidaymakers in Europe.
Source: Bank of England
We are also taking more holidays: the ONS reports that 2016 saw a record number of visits to the UK by overseas residents and visits abroad by UK residents. We are finding excuses to take more short breaks by celebrating greater numbers of life events and with an appetite for gaining new experiences on holiday, the so called ‘staycation’ or holidaying in the UK is growing and it is boosting the UK’s economy.
Around £85bn was spent on tourism in England in 2015 and when direct and indirect benefits are taken into account tourism in England contributes £106bn to the British economy while supporting 2.6m jobs (Visit Britain 2016).
Tourist spending in local economies is for the taking and regions should be vying to increase their share. Between 2006 and 2015 , the South West experienced a 21 per cent growth in tourism spending. However, whilst this is strong performance, the region has seen its share of tourism national spend decrease (from 31 per cent to 29 per cent) despite tourism spending in England rising by 32 per cent over the same period. Whilst this is good news for the English tourism sector, it’s a lost opportunity for the South West.
Source: GB Tourism Survey
Without a doubt there are opportunities within the South West to reverse this trend. Indeed, the quality and beauty of the beaches and coastline go far beyond those I have visited in any Mediterranean country. It will be those local authorities that welcome and actively encourage tourism development that will gain the greatest economic benefits to boost their local economies.
Local planning policies have often been restrictive and focused upon the control and limitations of development, such as holiday parks. But investment by operators is vital. The most proactive are focused on ensuring that their facilities and accommodation can attract repeat and new visitors year after year.
We are seeing some local planning authorities in the South West responding positively to the challenge. Cornwall Council and Weymouth and Portland Borough Council are two examples where they recognise the need to support the tourist market through constructive policies and a culture of seeking opportunities. In my view this must continue to ensure the South West does not lose out to other regions who are also looking how to strengthen their share of that increased expenditure.
As a country we are good at showcasing our tourism offer and while we continue to find excuses to spend a weekend or week away in the UK, the South West must take advantage of its strong position and ensure that we maintain and grow our regional tourism offer in the future. The ‘staycation’ seems to be here to, well, stay.
In May, Lichfields published the Rural estates: economic benefits of rural tourism insight. This examined rural areas and the potential for country estates to diversify their existing operations, to include provision of tourist accommodation.
31 Oct 2017
First impressions of a city are important. Ljubljana, Slovenia is a treasure; it does not disappoint. The city has a variety of architectural influences, including communist era housing blocks (although few in number); however it is the meticulously detailed and maintained public realm that makes the city distinctive, constantly drawing one’s eye to new areas of interest. European Green Capital of the year, 2016, it is in transition and taking strides towards becoming an exemplar of environmentally friendly strategies and civic initiatives.
Figure 1: Ljubljanica river with the Joze Plecnik-designed three bridges in background
A little context: Ljubljana is centrally located within Slovenia, on the Ljubljanica river. With Roman origins, the built form of the city has significant Italian, Austrian and German influences. Jože Plečnik (1872-1957) is often credited as the designer with the most influence on the form of the city, with several of its cultural highlights designed by the much-admired architect and planner. However it is the high quality of materials and design generally that make this city distinctive. Design permeates each street and space, a common palette of materials helping to create a coherent whole.
Figure 2: Joze Plecnik-designed riverfront
Figure 3: Left to right – (i) Dragon Bridge, (ii) steel dragon on Ljubljana Castle wall, (iii) Mesarski Bridge (art installation) and (iv) water feature integrated within Kljucavnicarska ulica laneway
Approximately 275,000 people call the city their home, which is administered by a typical European municipal system led by a mayor. The current mayor is Zoran Jankovic, who came to power in 2006 and quickly started making significant changes. Responding to chronic traffic issues within a medieval street structure, a sizeable car free zone was established (approximately 10 hectares) within the first year of his four year term. Commercial concerns were quickly allayed, as people and businesses flocked to the calm, yet vibrant pedestrian environment.
Figure 4: Car free zone defined by bollards: collapsible bollards controlled by sensors denoted by white squares
The success of the car free zone has been supported by several complementary measures. Cycleways have been carefully and creatively integrated into the public realm of the city, using materials that complement the streetscape. Unlike other celebrated cycling cities, there aren’t high speed pelotons who can intimidate pedestrians. Bike share schemes are conveniently located within and around the car free zone and are fully integrated with the public transport system of the city.
Figure 5: Clockwise from top left – (1) Bicike(lj) bicycle hire station, (2) cycleway defined by simple red line approaching shared surface in front of Slovenian Parliament building, (3) bike access designed into stairs using granite setts and (4) cycleway delineated by flush kerb to carriageway and granite setts to pavement
Park and ride locations have been established on the perimeter of the Zone, to help commuters and a free hail and ride service of electric ‘Kavalirs’ (‘gentle helpers’) have been provided to cater for the elderly or less physically able who might struggle with the 15 minute walk from one side of the Zone to the other. On the theme of accessibility, the city has also provided a contemporary-styled funicular for visitors who don’t fancy the 15 minute hike up to the Roman castle which overlooks the city.
Figure 6: Left to right – (i) Free hail and ride Kavalir – an electric bus within car free zone, (ii) Funicular providing access to Ljubljana castle and (iii) the alternative hiking route up to the Castle
The mantra of ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ can be seen in action all over the city. One instantly notices the variety of recycling bins provided throughout. The city separates 65% of its waste - exceeding targets set for 2020; its next target is a zero waste strategy by 2025. The city has also adopted underground collection, providing greater capacity for storage and reduced servicing costs.
Figure 7: Left to right – (i) Simple separation of waste within traditional waste bin and (ii) waste bins and underground waste storage
A sense of social engagement and initiative is noticeable whilst exploring the city. The Metalkova district is a haven for alternative cultures within walking distance of the city centre. What began as squatters taking advantage of a derelict military barracks has evolved into a thriving centre of alternative culture that has produced numerous spin-off enterprises. The city has been happy to let this alterative hub scene grow:
It’s a place for critical reflection, civic engagement – and with its activities it is establishing Ljubljana as an area where ideas of all generations can freely flow.
Whilst Metalkova is an easily identifiable example, more subtle bottom up planning initiatives can be seen throughout the city. Groups such as Prostoroz have successfully used crowd-sourced campaigns to demonstrate how stagnant urban sites can be used for urban allotments and social engagement projects such as the Library of Things (think a mixture of a library and Argos).
Figure 8: Metalkova district of Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a city that has been carefully designed and creatively adapted at a variety of scales. Thoughtful consideration can be seen in each intervention - from the strategic level car free zone to the skilful integration of cycle lanes and detailing of the streetscape. The result is a fascinating and vibrant capital city.