Letter from the author of this
website, published in the Sidmouth Herald on 4 June 2004.
Some elementary data analysis is suggested
as long overdue - a point made by several contributors to the town meeting held ten days
later. It is clear that tourism is a minor part of what keeps Sidmouth financially buoyant
- the major income streams are investment dividends and pension money! However, tourism
provides much of the 'spirit and life' of the town. It would indeed be dull without the
hotels along the seafront and the folk festival. If you want to see how dull, go to nearby
Budleigh Salterton. It is reputed to be even wealthier than Sidmouth - but is money
Most of the profits go to breweries
It is unfortunate that the 50th folk festival is already sullied by recriminations. Lack
of support from businesses is a valid but minor issue. It has not helped either that
figures as high as £5 million are thrown around for how much benefit it brings. Most of
the extra gross income to the town is probably via sales of alcohol. Most of the profit
goes to out-of town brewery chains and in tax. A few local people are employed as bar
staff. Similar arguments may be applied to shops.
Locally owned B&B guesthouses and hotels will be full - but would they have been
anyway during a peak season week? So the extra income to the town here may be precisely
zero. I really doubt that the true net benefit to East Devon is more than an average of a
few pounds per visitor.
It is amazing that with a reputed 50,000+ visitors some way could not have been found to
explain to them that a slight increase in all the prices this year would have been their
contribution to securing the future for decades to come. Obtaining £4 or £5 more from
each visitor (on average) would have been painless. Honouring promises of tickets for
residents would have consolidated local support. Now we have a scramble for tickets,
dozens of furious local folkies and probably a developing black market on the Internet.
Why did last year's excellent weather not produce much of the required contingency fund?
I have said many times that we need a proper analysis of income streams for Sidmouth -
from the festival, from other tourism and from retirement pensions. On 21 May Derek
Schofield asked what EDDC are afraid of by way of an open discussion. Maybe we all need to
admit that even if the festival does not bring much net financial benefit to the town it
is no reason at all to abandon the tradition of a such a uniquely happy event.
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