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An inspiring week with CoaSTies

I have just has the privilege of spending a week in Cornwall
staying with CoaST  members and running a series of workshops on
the ways in which tourism contributes to local economic development. It was a
stimulating week of engaged discussion, it demonstrates what a productive and
sustaining organisation the Cornwall Sustainable Tourism network is. Times are
hard in Cornwall but the network in resilient, I came away on the sleeper on
Friday night heartened by what I had seen and heard.

Visitor numbers to Cornwall were down last year, I heard by
one million, but CoaSTies were demonstrating their resilience: adapting their
business strategies and exercising environmental responsibility because it is
the right thing to do and because it cuts their costs as well as ensuring that
their businesses are more resilient.  There
were lots of discussions about going off the grid and ensuring that businesses could adapt to austerity Britain ? no one I spoke to in Cornwall was
assuming that they would return to the pattern of business as usual. Resilience requires adaptation.

CoaSTies are bright and willing to look the future in the
face and adapt to face it. They are not unique in that, other individual
businesses are doing it, what distinguishes CoaSTies is the numbers of people
adapting their business models in Cornwall and the mutual support they offer
each other. They have understood the virtues of co-opetition co-operating and competing together as required to create a thriving destination. After a week
with them in Cornwall, and spending time with the indefatigable Manda Brookman
one comes away refreshed and with a little more optimism of the will.

I was in Cornwall talking with local tourism businesses, all
CoaST members about how to increase their resilience in austerity Britain and
to encourage them to participate in the research I am doing for my book on
tourism and local economic development. I learnt a lot.

I spent the first night as a guest of Pat Smith at Bosinver Farm
Cottages
, I stayed in Lowen
(low energy/Cornish for happy), a straw bale house designed to offer a low
impact high quality experience from the art and beautiful reused furnishing to
the experience of the immediate farm and natural environment. Our discussions focussed
on the many ways in which tourism contributes to the broader local economy
through local sourcing and encouraging visitors to spend on local goods and
services.

Monday night I spent with Chris Jones at Woodland Valley 
an organic farm with a residential study centre and
group accommodation in the parish of Ladock. Chris showed me over the farm and
gave me a master class in wind turbines and community benefit and the way he is
adapting Woodland Valley in the face of climate change, peak oil and austerity
Britain. Our conversation with the CoaSTies ranged widely over alternative
energy, local sourcing and the creation of local activities as additional
livelihoods as well as the importance of ensuring that the disadvantages can
also access the best of Cornwall’s countryside.

Sally and Chris Searle put me up in the Thomas Hardy room 
at The Old Rectory  in St Juliot’s. It was at The Rectory that
Hardy stayed when he was restoring the church at St Juliot’s and met his first
wife. Sally showed round the Victorian vegetable garden and Chis explained the
success he is having with solar energy ? they are well on the way to self-sufficiency
in food and electricity. Our discussions ranges over buyers groups and the
contributions which self-catering and B&Bs can make to the local economy
and how adversities, like the Boscastle flood,  can build co-operation.

Wednesday night I was accommodated at the Bedruthan Steps,  a hotel with a well justified big reputation for the work
it has done on its economic, social and environmental responsibility. The hotel
has just had a major refurbishment in the public areas as it adapts to changing
market trends and continues to improve its environmental performance. I spent
time with Emma Stratton and Claire Beard learning about the way the business
continues to adapt in order to ensure its resilience. Our discussions with
CoaSTies ranged over community developments in Wadebridge, the contribution to
the local economy or large businesses like Bedruthan Steps and Perran Sands and
small B&B’s in St Ives

Simon and Rosie offered accommodation at Little White Alice www.littlewhitealice.co.uk I
stayed in The Oak House, Duir
proof that environmental sustainability and luxury are not incompatible. Our
discussions focused on the challenge of finding ways of ensuring that tourists
who visit Cornwall and the businesses which benefit from the tourism which is
attracted by the landscape contribute to its maintenance.

I leave Cornwall feeling that I
benefited more than they did, it was an immensely stimulating week, one which
has left me rejuvenated but the passion and enthusiasm of CoaSTies ? it rubs
off.

Join their One Planet Tourism network – you will gain from it.

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