Great news on East Anglian holidays – but let’s drop the Staycation tag!
It was great to see the positive news on East Anglian tourism that was published the other day – showing that the region is attracting increasing numbers of holidaymakers from both other parts of the UK and abroad.
But I do hope that those whose job it is to promote tourism will start to be a bit less defensive about what the region, and Britain as a whole for that matter, has to offer.
Too often they seem to think they are having to justify coming here as “second-best” – because it is too expensive or too inconvenient to go abroad – rather than concentrating on its positive aspects.
For a start, they can stop using this appalling word “staycation”.
That term first arose about 30 years ago to describe people who spent their two-week annual holiday at home, visiting local attractions but returning to their own bed every night.
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It never meant (well, not until about five years ago) going on holiday in the UK. Frankly it is bonkers for someone from East Anglia to describe a holiday in the Lake District as a “staycation”. You aren’t staying anywhere. You’re going on holiday!
The misuse of the word staycation was cooked up by marketing gurus to justify to Tristan and Hermione that it was okay to spend a couple of weeks in a country cottage in Cornwall, rather than renting a villa in Corfu at the height of the recession.
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It’s always been a slightly pejorative term – giving an excuse for a British holiday rather than a reason for it – and if tourism experts insist on using it, they really aren’t doing the industry any favours.
Because there has always been a significant number of people – my own family included – who have taken our main holiday in this country for years.
We have visited most parts of the country, some of them several times.
We have been to most of the country’s great cities, either for a short-stay break or as a day trip from an area we are visiting.
Looking at this part of the world, as residents of Suffolk it isn’t difficult to see the attractions of the region – but you need to be able to consider what we can offer to visitors from outside East Anglia.
And actually we’ve got a great deal to offer visitors whatever their tastes and whatever they are looking for – from short seaside breaks to culture-based visits to a full-blown fortnight for visitors from some distance away, with a trip to the capital thrown in as well.
Because we have to avoid being too myopic if we are going to attract holidaymakers looking for a venue for their main trip of the year.
We might look at county boundaries but visitors won’t. If you’ve got a week’s holiday in a cottage in mid Suffolk, you might visit Southwold one day, Norwich the next, and take the kids to Colchester Zoo the day after.
And if you’ve travelled from Holland for a holiday in East Anglia, you might well take the train to London for the day. For many people holidays are time to explore, to see new things, have new experiences.
Does the Heart of Suffolk want its own identity?
Tomorrow, senior councillors from Mid Suffolk and Babergh councils will be considering if the two councils should merge their political structures.
At present they are run as separate bodies with a single joint administration.
It is a structure that only political nerds truly understand – even if it is what was democratically decided in a vote across the two districts several years ago.
And it is a structure that has left the two districts without any kind of coherent identity – marooned as they are between increasingly-assertive west Suffolk and east Suffolk councils.
I can see there is a strong democratic argument against merging the councils without a second referendum. I can understand that residents of Shotley don’t really know a great deal about Eye.
But if the area between east and west Suffolk wants to be anything other than “the part of Suffolk no-one else wanted” then something has to change in the way its local government is run.
Because, to be honest, how many people really give two hoots about where their council meets, how many councillors there are, or how decisions are made?
So long as bins are emptied, potholes are filled, and their neighbour is prevented from building a tower block in the back garden, most voters aren’t worried about the minutiae of process.