Thursday, October 10, 2013

Striking back at Bath's tourists

A curious factoid plonks onto the desk at Chronicle Towers: Bath’s digital creative industry, valued at £350m per year, is worth three times more to the city than tourism (a mere bagatelle at an annual £106m).

This raises a number of rather uncomfortable – and probably unanswerable – questions. 

First off, what exactly is a digital creative industry, and how would you know one if you saw one?

Second, given that this very blog is both digital (as in  typed with the fingers) and creative (as in made up on the spur of the moment) then where’s its share of the £350m?

Third and most important, though, is the question of what to do with all the tourists, now that they don’t matter nearly as much as they used to, finance-wise.

Just think of the fun we can have. We can stand on the pavement of the Circus as the coaches trundle round and round, their occupants soaking up the Georgian architectural splendours through smoked-glass windows from the comfort of their air-conditioned recliners.

We can peer back at them in a vaguely authoritarian manner, waving placards with slogans like “Get Out And Walk!”

And then when they do, we can wave another placard that says “Get Back On The Coach, You’re Bunging Up The Pavement!”

In seven different languages.

We can stand at the back of a walking tour, point at the guide and whisper subversively into the ear of an unsuspecting grockle: “She’s making it all up, you know.”

Or we can try to grab our own slice of that rather tempting £106m by setting up our own tourist trap.

Here’s an idea: why not find an historical figure and work out their Bath connection? Set up a museum in their honour, hire out pre-recorded audio guides, sell classy-looking souvenirs and generally rake it in.

It can’t be anyone literary: the market is already saturated by the bonneted, frilled and furbelowed spectre of Jane Austen.

Scientists are out too: William Herschel, the 18th century’s answer to Peter Higgs of boson fame, got there first.

(Little-known fact about William Herschel: he originally named his newly-discovered planet, Uranus, after King George III, thereby earning himself an entry in the first edition of Ye Guinneffe Booke of Recordes as the Biggest Creep in the Entire Universe. Try telling that to a tourist.)

Moor your frigate here
(Little-known fact about bosons: they’re named after Indian mathematician Satyendra Nath Bose, who apparently never got the recognition he truly deserved.)

Where were we? Ah yes, trying to get rich off the holidaymakers.

This is how. Find an obscure naval officer who convalesced in Bath after Trafalgar. Build a replica of his three-masted frigate, sail it up the Avon and moor it off Pulteney Bridge. Dress up in midshipman’s gear, stand by the gangplank and leer nautically at the approaching coachloads. Regale them with tales of rum and floggings. Sell them funny hats, feed them ship’s biscuits.

Ker-ching. Job’s a good’un!

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