At last a summer to delight business
AT EASTER, The Cornishman asked, 'will the visitors come to Penwith?' – five months later, the answer seems to be a resounding 'yes'.
Two weeks ago, St Ives was said to be "on a roll" by Malcolm Bell, chief executive of VisitCornwall, after a late season surge in visitors.
Now business leaders and tourism chiefs in Penzance are equally upbeat.
James Pulford, who manages the Wharfside Centre, said footfall through the centre during June, July and August was up by 11 per cent on the same period last year.
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"We've had 750,000 people walking through the Wharfside during that period which is quite impressive for a town of 20,000 people," he said.
"Visitors, as well as locals, have complained about the disruptions from the roadworks and they have also been concerned about the cost of parking, but overall the season has been very positive, especially in the current economic climate – most of our retailers are pretty happy about the way the year has gone."
Dick Cliffe, chairman of the town's chamber of commerce and the owner of a guesthouse, said: "The exceptionally cold spring meant that visitor numbers were down badly. The tourism season got off to a bad start.
"But we then had the impact of Sainsbury's contractors being accommodated in the town followed by very strong foreign demand in June and July, particularly from the Germans, Swiss, Dutch and Italians.
"This was followed by the good summer weather which meant strong domestic demand in July, August and September."
Mr Cliffe, whose own guesthouse saw a 12.5 per cent rise in turnover during June, July and August, said that the accommodation and hospitality sectors have been especially buoyant. Indeed there has been a serious shortage of accommodation in Penzance this summer.
He also believes that the mainline railway station is a draw.
"The number of visitors who travel by rail seems to keep climbing.
"As Penzance is also the hub of the local bus service it is the obvious place to base yourself if you do not have a car," he said.
However, the town remains a work in progress as he added: "Penzance does not market itself as a destination – people discover charming features of Penzance as much by chance as by design."
Arnaud Ruetsch, chairman of the Penzance and District Tourism Association, believes the main reason why 2013 has been better than last year is down to the weather.
"We had very little rain and plenty of sun. Link that with the fact that people tend to book later than they used to, I think more people came down because of the good weather forecast."