Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Reasons to be cheerful


Even with Britain in the grip of a credit crunch, there are some very good reasons to be optimistic about Hebden Bridge's economic health in the current downturn.

Firstly, for all of the worries about the vulnerability of much of the local economy being based on tourism and discretionary spending, is it not conceivable that some of the British people will still want to take a break or two this year and, rather than taking a flight abroad where sterling is worth a great deal less than it was last year, they will be considerably more likely to spend what money they have in British "tourist destinations" like here?

This is certainly the opinion of a long-time friend of mine who analyses the Spanish tourist industry at a strategic level professionally. She said that she thought that the southwest of England would do particularly well because of the sun, but that all established "rural" destinations (like here and the Lakes) would see increased visitor numbers, particularly those that had a good choice of "activities", like us, as the general tendancy toward activity-based breaks is set to continue.

To this end, I would hope that initiatives like the "Walkers are Welcome" project continue to be ACTIVELY promoted by the local council.

It won't keep the whole town in a job but it could certainly remain a strong and thriving sector.

On the point that some have fears for the ethical/green quarter, I would like to point out that the Credit Crunch actually presents some great opportunities. With the American stimulus package having a total of $78.61bn directly earmarked for green projects, and proportionally similar investment being proposed by all parties here, this is another area in which we have far more than our fair share of skilled practioners.

Whilst it has historically been true that many products that are better for the environment have also been more expensive initially, this imbalance has been rapidly correcting itself as demand has increased. Much of this increase has been driven by legislation, rather than trend, so I feel that the green technology sector is actually pretty stable and can give us great cause for optimism.

Organisations like the Alternative Technology Centre and the Transition Towns project, together with events like the Big Green Weekend, continue to keep a spotlight on Hebden Bridge as a centre of forward-looking "green excellence."

This part of the world is extremely blessed with talented, entrepreneurial, innovative and hard-working people, not to mention some stunning countryside. As a town we have a huge amount to offer still, so don't be too despondent!

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