Cathedrals no; Ironworks yes

By | Category: Travel destinations

Have you ever visited a tin mine or a coal pit? A car manufacturer or a food processing plant? Is this tourism at all you might ask? Yesterday, on World Tourism Day, a conference was held in Brussels to answer just that, look at industrial tourism and our heritage.
One success in the United Kingdom is the Big Pit at Blaenavon. That attracts tens of thousands of tourists a year as does the Falkirk Wheel. Do we visit Ironbridge because it is a magnificent site or because of our industrial heritage. Is the National Motor Museum or the National Rail Museum an appeal just to motorheads and railway anoraks or is it “real” tourism?
Why should visitors see these sites. And more importantly, will they?

Eusebi Casanelles I Rahola the director of a museum in Catalonia in Spain highlighted the appeal. It was from Europe that the industrial revolution spread. The industry that sprang up in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries is our heritage as much as any castle or great house is. As a boy, he said, he was dragged around cathedrals by his parents but never quite understood why. He did understand the power of the iron working, the mills and the other industrial sights he saw. We developed industry and transplanted it around the world as part of the colonial development.
As the director of tourism for Yunnan in China, Linwu Huang said, when the French came to what is now Vietnam and built the Hanoi-Kunming Railway a hundred years ago, they bought wine, architecture and a western life. One resident, an old lady, says she still has coffee for breakfast and wine at dinner and can still ballroom dance as she was taught in those days to do. Is she the next star for Strictly? Vineyards still flourish and the French built buildings still survive. Now the Chinese are looking for co-operation in developing this as a tourist site with a difference. It will be a mobile, tourism attraction up the 465 kilometre length of the railway.
So will people visit them? Just as canals now attract ever increasing visitors it came about locally that the preservation and support came. From that came wider recognition and more visitors. And that is what this year’s European Tourism Day will try and foster.

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