Great White Horse Hotel conversion signals tourism decline

Ipswich is losing one of its greatest gems, the Great White Horse Hotel. 

This is sabotage of our heritage. The Ipswich Society has allowed this after fighting to save the building being demolished in its early days. Just next door a budget hotel is opening up so any suggestion this couldn’t become a hotel is downright dishonest and misguided.

The Ipswich “tourism” industry is boosted at the moment and it is no surprise this is down to all restaurants, pubs and hotels being included in the definition no matter who uses their services. Ipswich has seen a boost in the number of hotel rooms and an increase in the number of restaurants with the Buttermarket Centre conversion.

The groups of people using the restaurants, pubs and hotels can be described as residents, day visitors and tourists. A tourist is a visitor that stays for less than a year but at least overnight. A day visitor is effectively a tourist that visits during the day but doesn’t stay overnight.

Ipswich hasn’t promoted itself to tourists but has, to attract day visitors. We cannot doubt the visits attracted in respect to the university and even waterfront events.

It is wrong to include general service sector trades as the “tourism industry” and this is pretty applicable in Ipswich as a county town which attracts few of its county folk to the town as a main city-like hub.

  • Restaurants – Since the recession some people have more disposable income to spend on eating out at restaurants. With uncertainty surrounding brexit and potential more austerity by the conservative party, on top of other market factors, longer term the restaurants may become unsustainable.
  • Pubs – More likely used by locals for alcoholic beverages as a social meeting place and by non-local people for food (such as in a “gastro pub”).
  • Hotels – Budget hotels are also used by those who otherwise have a place to stay.

The problem faced with the current passive attraction of “day visitors” is they are:
a) only for selected events, or
b) rely too much on the novelty and setup at current

To explain the last one, the new Buttermarket Centre will get old and tatty overtime and those restaurants might expand to other regional towns such as nearby Colchester which they currently attract at the moment. The business may not lose out (they can always close the Ipswich one) but it changes the power of attracting people.

Call me old-school but if Ipswich attracted real tourists who stay for 2-3 days, by promoting (and sharing) our heritage the restaurants and hotels can be supported. Sadly fudged figures and distorted perception makes it appear Ipswich attracts tourists (we used to attract quite a lot) when in reality it is just our own residents supporting businesses with disposable incomes and multi-race population who live and work here.

What about the Great White Horse Hotel? Name dropping Charles Dickens with a historical Inn is surely going to attract international tourists and domestic bookworms as a day visitor or overnight tourist. His words about the Great White Horse Hotel were not positive, but it was back then and the modern world is full of people who can see past that. Something you would proudly include in your literature as a long-running lighthearted joke. If only I had a spare few million pounds…

No surprise the council is run by David Ellesmere who wasn’t born here and doesn’t have family here.

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