So it seems Essex has become the latest British destination to ‘benefit’ from a popular television programme. If the research released from Hotels.com last week has turned into bookings then businesses across Essex can look forward to a good tourism future. It’ll certainly prove as a silver lining to the council cuts across the region.
Yet while I’m pleased that prospects look bright for my home county, I cannot help but think that Brits are being misled by the image that ‘The Only Way is Essex’ portrays. Yes the area’s nightlife is brilliant and there are people who live like Mark Wright and co, but that is just one small side of Essex and is mainly centralised in the towns nearest to London i.e Romford and Brentwood. Other areas of Essex are covered in grass with towns and villages scattered throughout and coastal seaside resorts like Southend and Clacton. And while there are certainly some outrageous sights here, including the Hollywood-style Basildon sign and some outfits on a Saturday night, life in Essex is generally as you would expect around the UK, with that lovely accent and charm served alongside it. It would be interesting to see where tourists are actually staying in Essex and whether this stretches any further than the towns nearest to the M25.
However, and more importantly, I hope that families or the grey market are not deterred from visiting Essex purely from the image shown on the television. There are plenty of things to do in the region that are far flung from the TV show and I have made a conscious effort to visit several of them myself in recent weeks. There is plenty of history, culture, shopping outlets and nature to see in the region, which is home to the first Salvation Army camp, the birthplace of radio and the world’s longest pier. It’s attractions like these, plus its proximity to London, that travel agents can discuss with potential clients looking for a break.
Don’t get me wrong, I recognise that any tourism is good tourism and it is wrong to think that only a certain ‘type’ of person can see all that Essex has to offer. I may also be over generalising. But if a group of people are heading to the region for only one thing, they could go home disappointed.