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Nothing to do with jollies…

MM900163026Andrew is the patron saint of Greece, Prussia, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Ukraine, and sports-themed regional promotion. At the St Andrews Open (a golf thing) our plucky council workers will be promoting us for all they’re worth, but it may be a waste of their time and our money.

Row over Council’s £40,000 trip to golf Open

Later this month, staff from the city council will travel to St Andrews in Scotland while The Open Championship golf takes place in a trip costing Canterbury’s taxpayers £40,000. The city council insists staff will be working hard to promote Canterbury in a way which it hopes will benefit the district many times over when Sandwich hosts The Open at Royal St George’s this time next year. However, one prominent hotelier questions the need to promote the city when Canterbury’s hotels and bed and breakfasts will be full when The Open comes to east Kent next year. David Sharma, the owner of Howfield Manor Hotel in Chartham, says promoting the city on what will be its busiest week of the year is a waste of public money.

FOR

Council spokesman Rob Davies said:

The city council has made a total contribution of £40,000, spread over two years, towards the cost of staging the Open golf in east Kent next year. This spending has nothing to do with jollies and hospitality, as some people were suggesting during our budget consultation last year; and everything to do with maximising what is a great opportunity to promote the area to a worldwide audience in much the same way as the Tour de France was.

The three staff from the city council will join people from Visit Kent and other east Kent councils at St Andrews. They will be working 16-hour days for 10 days, have no access to watch the golf and will be staying in a rented house 50 miles away from St Andrews to keep the costs down. The team will have a huge, east Kent-branded stand featuring a range of images of the area in order to promote it as a great place for golfing breaks and holidays, to make sure we get the best possible legacy from the Open golf coming to Sandwich.

We will also have the same presence at the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham & St Annes. In short, this trip will see our staff working their socks off for the benefit of the local economy and to get the maximum return for our £40,000 contribution.

AGAINST

David Sharma, who has run Howfield Manor since it reopened in autumn 2008, said:

There will be no accommodation available anywhere near Canterbury while the golf is on, so what is the point of going to St Andrews to promote accommodation? Even hotels in south London will be full during the tournament. This trip has all the hallmarks of a jolly for those people going. And given that there are going to be cutbacks in public services, going up to Scotland to watch the golf seems even more wasteful.

If the council was genuinely interested in promoting tourism in the district then it should look at trying to encourage people to come to Canterbury during the week when things are much quieter – not during the busiest week of the whole year. We don’t need them promoting us when we get the business, we need it during down times. I’m going to be fully booked during the golf. I’m just bewildered about this on two counts. First, as an accommodation provider I question the need for it and secondly, as a council taxpayer I’m angry public money is being used for it.

HB Gazette 8th July 2010


As I have mentioned elsewhere, one of my many hideous personality defects is that I just don’t ‘get’ golf. This leaves me doubly perplexed when trying to assess the commercial logic of sending people to the other end of the country to work stupid hours for a fortnight. I’m assuming that the £40k is simply to buy our exhibitor’s pass – feeding and housing our ambassadors at the other end of the country is extra. Thrilled as I am that Council employees are prepared to work 16 hour days promoting Canterbury (District, not just the City, I hope), they don’t have to go to Scotland to do it.

The Open will be coming to Sandwich, regardless of the Council’s presence and efforts at St Andrews. Hardened golf fans will already have decided whether to come to the Sandwich Open. Of those who are undecided and persuadable, I’m guessing only a minority will be at St Andrews. It seems like a lot of time, money and effort to catch those few waverers – a half-way decent ad campaign in the golfing press would probably do the trick.

If Mr Sharma is correct, the whole area will be fully booked during the Sandwich Open anyway, so people would end up in the bridal suite, or an over-priced broom cupboard, or in the middle of nowhere – hardly the most attractive way to be a visitor.

Key concept: “return on investment”. Is anyone at our Council measuring this? Does anyone have any figures for previous years?

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