Minehead’s enthusiastic team of town ambassadors, entertainment and the Steam Bus have made a ‘transformational’ difference to the holidays of hundreds of visitors this summer, business leaders said this week.
Operating in teams of two the ambassadors have worked the streets on every weekend during August under the direction of the Minehead Information Centre. Their contact with visitors has involved offering guidance on tourism attractions, answering questions about the town, its heritage and its amenities, handing out literature and trouble-shooting any problems.
The scheme has been funded by the Minehead BID consortium of local businesses and, said BID manager Andrew Hopkins, had achieved considerable - and measurable - success.
“Particularly for first-time visitors to Minehead it has offered a really valuable service,” he said.
Covid-19 put paid to much of the lavish summer entertainment programme that had been put together by the BID team – set up in 2018 to drive Minehead’s re-establishment as a premier holiday destination.
But as visitors started to appear in the weeks following the easing of lockdown restrictions resources were directed towards providing at least some attractions for tourists, including weekend visits by entertainer Damian Patton with Oscar the Orangutan and the Steam Bus Service which ran from the railway station along the sea front, to the harbour and town centre.
But, said Mr Hopkins, the package of measures had been a wise investment.
“We know from the feedback we have received that many visitors have loved seeing Damian and Oscar plus hearing the toot from the Steam Bus on its travels around the town and have found the Ambassadors a great help to finding their way around Minehead and discovering what it has to offer,” he said.
“There’s nothing more unnerving than arriving somewhere for the first time and not knowing where or how to start exploring the place: the ambassadors offered an immediately welcoming face, answered everyone’s questions and generally ensured that a lot of people got much more from their visit to the town than they were probably expecting.”
Minehead Information Centre manager Sally Turner said the Ambassador initiative had exceeded all expectations.
“The ambassadors thoroughly enjoyed interacting with visitors as well as locals and really did play an invaluable role in handing out free maps and offering advice on where to go and what to do in and around Minehead,” she said.
“As well as operating as walking outposts of the Information Centre they also acted as an important functioning link between local businesses, the BID team and the staff on duty at the centre at The Beach Hotel. It was great to be part of such a positive initiative for the town.”
Shaun “Woody” Robins who operated the Steam Bus added that “working with Minehead BID during this questionable year has been a pleasure. It was safe to say that none of us expected anything to take place for the 2020 season, but a little quick thinking allowed Minehead to open for business in ways we could never have imagined with less than 10 days planning!”
“Needless to say, “Young Buster” wasn’t ready for the season when we were booked but the talented Paul Johnson has kept us rolling with his endless maintenance turns. Young Buster’s owners, Trevor and Carol Stockdale have supported Cameron Bryan and I in every way they possibly could to aid us in putting on a crowd-pleasing show. The fact we ended up doing many more journeys than were planned is a testament to the popularity of the service. A big thank you must also go to the West Somerset Railway in making their facilities available to us for daily servicing of Young Buster. We look forward to returning again next summer.”
Damian Patton concluded by saying “I had a fabulous time in and around Minehead meeting local businesses and entertaining people in a safe socially distanced way. It really was a fantastic summer bringing smiles to all who came. I hope to see everyone again next year.”