We must hold on to our visitors - they're valuable

PUBLISHED: 12:01 15 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:47 04 May 2010

THERE was a fantastic buzz up and down the streets of Ely while the cathedral doubles as an Elizabethan court for the making of a movie about our virgin Queen , played by Cate Blanchett. Whether it was the actors mingling outside the Lamb Hotel or enjoyi

THERE was a fantastic buzz up and down the streets of Ely while the cathedral doubles as an Elizabethan court for the making of a movie about our 'virgin Queen', played by Cate Blanchett.

Whether it was the actors mingling outside the Lamb Hotel or enjoying a well-earned cuppa between takes in the freshly-erected marquee on Cathedral Green, it all brought a touch of Hollywood razzmatazz to our fair city.

It also presented us with more tourists and visitors, and I bet hoteliers and shopkeepers are rubbing their hands with glee! And so should we all, because it will create more jobs for the increasing numbers of young folk you see on our streets. Many of them migrant workers from old Eastern-bloc countries who renew and refresh our local economy.

The trick now is to make sure Ely stays a firm favourite on the tourist trail long after the movie cameras and clapperboards have exited the cathedral for the next location-shoot.

Key to this are the noticeboards you see in shop windows and on street corners, showing us the local events going on in our city and surrounding villages. Many of these voluntary efforts are excellent and there are fantastic displays of such flyers at Burrows newsagent on the High Street and at the Ely Standard.

In the past, these events were mainly for local consumption only. As there was little through traffic, but as Ely has become the magnet for visitors to the fens, these displays of what's-going-on have a crucial role to play in our tourist industry.

Ask any hotelier about Ely and they shrug their shoulders saying 'we're just a stop-over point on the way to Cambridge or North Norfolk'.

In other words Ely Cathedral is our one trick pony. And once Johnny tourist has taken his snaps, he's skiddadaled down the road to the dreaming spires of Cambridge, or headed north to the celebrated North Norfolk coast.

But we want to hold on to our visitors- and make Ely a week-long leisure destination, not just a one or two-nightrest-over en-route to Cambridge. We want the so-called tourist dollar rung up on the tills of Ely hotels, shops, pubs and venues and not spent elsewhere!

So I was greatly gladdened to see that some enterprising folk have seized the day and erected new events-noticeboards on the outskirts of our city centre.

However, when I gazed on one of the new public-events display boards in Little Lane off West End and Hills Lane my joy quickly turned to dismay when I saw that half of the items being advertised were long out-of-date.

On the Little Lane board there was a poster for campaign theatre's Guys and Dolls production at the Maltings. But the curtain came down on this marvellous musical on April 29.

Another out-of-date billing promoted the Eel Day procession, also on April 29!

On top of this the glass casing showcasing these events was cracked and forlonly maintained, not a good impression for the tourists!

I now ask you to put yourselves for one moment, in the shoes of a hapless tourist on a visit to our city. He may be a bit of a film-buff who's come here to revisit the location-shoots for the Elizabeth I film at the cathedral.

But it's now the evening and he's casting about for a bit if night life. How must he feel when he claps eyes on a public-events noticeboard- only to discover that many of our ware's are long past their sell-by-date?

Saddened and confused, I'll bet! And with nothing to do maybe he will board the train to Cambridge and check out the action there.

What sort of a tale will he have to tell about Ely, when he returns home? Not good, I fear!

It's high time tourist officials earn their corn and got off their backsides to deal with this fiasco. Otherwise the Ely bandwagon that got a helpful shove from Hollywood will be stopped dead in its tracks!

GRAHAM COX

By email

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