Carbis Bay! Who would have thought it?

Torbay Weekly

Councillor Nick Bye, Wellswood:

My brief stay at the Carbis Bay Hotel, almost 40 years ago, was not something I look back upon with great pleasure.

If the hotel boasted any stars then it was hanging onto them by its finger tips and the strongest impression was an all pervading out-of-season musty smell of damp or possibly something worse.

So any suggestion this hotel would be transformed into an über cool five-star resort with world leaders and the world’s media staying there would have had us all laughing.

So how has Cornwall become such a smart destination and what lessons can we learn?

Number one must be the amount of investment in tourism in recent years; the willingness to accept change, indeed to venture upmarket and a less squeamish approach to new buildings.

The Carbis Bay has been greatly expanded with deluxe rooms and suites extending down to the beach.

There are new apartment buildings in place of old hotels in Newquay; new tall buildings in Falmouth and elsewhere.

Indeed, the Tate Gallery St Ives is quite a lump.

I wonder if all of this would have got approved by our Torbay Council planning committee?

Number two is the unified and positive approach to marketing the place so Cornwall is now a fashionable resort and anyone who is anyone, politicians, media folk, actors and the rest seem to make their way there.

In fairness to our English Riviera Tourism Company things are progressing here and they have largely overcome a legacy of division and small 'p' politics.

At one stage it seemed we had more groups of hoteliers than hotels.

But we still need to develop a much stronger cultural and heritage offer to lure out-of-season visitors in particular.

I am always surprised our remarkable range of attractions don’t work more closely together.

I visited Torquay Museum the other morning and enjoyed the exhibition celebrating 175 years of the museum and local history.

But nothing about Torre Abbey, for example, or a suggestion to visit.

The Bay is a funny sort of place where everyone keeps banging on about what is wrong, what’s missing or what’s closed down but keep very quiet about what makes it special and worth celebrating.

In recent years the eating out scene has been completely transformed and you could have a top-notch meal in a different place every night for a fortnight at least, as well as perfectly pleasant meals and snacks in a whole variety of informal beachside and waterfront venues.

But we don’t really shout about it.

Recent investment in new hotels, the upgrading of some of our existing stock and a sprinkling of magic dust at places such as the Cary Arms is getting noticed.

The new Fragrance Group hotels and significant investment at the Imperial will be a real game changer for the Bay.

We also need to push our accessibility. We are a couple of hours nearer to London by train than most of Cornwall and once here most things can be reached by bus, bicycle, on foot, ferry or even steam train.

Great credentials for a green resort or anyone fed up negotiating Cornish lanes or finding somewhere to park there.

We have safe beaches, stunning scenery and so much more.

Perhaps the next time the UK hosts the G7 we can welcome them here.