Many British cities look on with envy at places such as York, Bath, and Canterbury. These tourist honey pots attract thousands of visitors every day, pouring into town to snap a few photos, eat an expensive meal at a chain restaurant and buy something from a shop they have in their own local high street.
The same situation applies across Europe, with a few cities attracting the lion’s share of the tourists’ Euros. Yet the reality is that anywhere can be a tourist town, even if it has nothing of interest to visitors. If you are in charge of your local tourism efforts, here are a few simple steps that will guarantee your town will become the next must-visit place:
1. Buy a Toy Train
These delightful contraptions will carry your visitors on a comprehensive 1/2 mile circuit that takes in your town’s unmissable highlights. Local commuters will smile and toot a friendly greeting as the 15 empty carriages of your train make their way at 4mph across your high street. Remember to call it something alluring, such as Le Petit Train (unless you’re in France) or the Happy Train.
2. Create a dodgy past for one of your hotels
Everyone loves to stay in a former prison or brothel. Pick a hotel at random (preferably one that’s been around longer than most people can remember) and bestow on it a seedy past, involving highwaymen, prostitutes, and/or murderers.
3. Stock up on cats. Lots of cats
Go to the local rescue shelter and engineer a mass escape if you have to. Nothing says ‘Serious Tourist Destination’ better than a few thousand stray cats. Make sure they breed regularly, as cute kittens will ensure you have a fabulous calendar for people to buy and remember your town for the following year.
4. Put your name to an airport
Every serious destination needs an airport; just ask the folks in Cluj or Bydgoszcz. It doesn’t matter if it’s a strip of badly-maintained concrete 100 km away with nothing connecting it to your town. As long as you attach your name to the airport there is an airline out there who will send big blue and yellow planes full of money-spenders your way.
5. Get hold of a few Segways
Do not despair if your town is too boring to walk around and can’t accommodate a toy train. The thrill of riding a Segway will have visitors whooping with delight and forgetting about the disappointment of their immediate surroundings.
6. Create a walking tour
A walking tour is essential for those people who are too tight or too proud to ride on the Happy Train. It doesn’t take much to mark out a few points of mild interest on a map and employ someone who enjoys dressing up to take eager tourists on a Highlights Tour. If there’s really nothing of interest in your town, start the walk in the evening and make it a Ghost Tour.
7. Open a torture chamber
Torture chambers in medieval times were as commonplace as frozen yogurt shops are today. Beheadings, vampires, plagues, and mass murders are essential ingredients for a good family day out so get creative and celebrate your town’s most illustrious criminals. It’s probably best to limit your attention to those criminals who are no longer alive.
8. Have a World Famous restaurant
Pick a restaurant at random and attach the words ‘World Famous’ to its name, or at the very least to the dish that brings in the highest profit margin. Nobody looks at a menu and ignores something that’s world-famous.
9. Become a stag night venue
If all the above steps fail and you really have nothing to offer, market yourself as the best place for stag parties. Change your licensing laws to allow 24-hour drinking, build a historic red-light district, and set up a line of kebab vans to service the fun-loving visitors who will be filling your coffers.