Cornwall’s tourism chief has faced criticism after he asked visitors to stay away from some of the county’s beaches.
Visit Cornwall chief executive Malcolm Bell suggested in a radio interview that the region’s coastline was at risk of “over-tourism”, blaming the BBC television series Poldark.
The county’s beaches are among its top destinations but Bell warned that their popularity as the backdrop to Ross Poldark’s cliff-top horse rides and bare-chested adventures had led to unsustainable levels of overcrowding, The Times reported.
The tourism board stopped promoting its coastline in brochures and online campaigns for the first time this summer, amid fears that “over-tourism” risked damaging the beaches and spoiling the quality of life for residents.
Bell said: “It’s funny – you would think a tourism board would be over the moon at having lots of visitors but we don’t want local communities up in arms. We want visitors to have a good experience and return.”
He acknowledged the irony of a tourism boss trying to drive down visitor numbers.
“Poldark has been the catalyst,” he said. “We are in a fortunate position but we don’t want to be a destination that people go to once and don’t return. We want people to come back.
“The danger is that the car parks get full so no one can get parked, the footpaths get damaged, the litter bins can’t cope with the rubbish and the locals can’t get anywhere because the roads are so congested. So we end up with frustrated visitors and really frustrated locals. That’s what we want to avoid. This is a sustainability issue.”
He said that campaigns would try to “redistribute” tourists from Kynance Cove on the Lizard peninsula, which has featured in Poldark; Porthcurno (pictured), near Land’s End; and the beach nearby at Pedn Vounder.
But Jane Lyndhurst, who lets a second home in Helston, Cornwall, said: “It’s like putting up Keep Out signs saying we don’t want you here.
“What a crazy thing to say — that we don’t want too many holidaymakers because it irritates the people who live here all year round.
“Cornwall has some of the best beaches you can find anywhere, so why would the tourist board want to put people off visiting? It doesn’t make sense.”
Andrew Tate, who lives near Porthcurno, told the BBC that an “absolutely massive traffic jam” was made worse by people parking along a narrow rural road.
A spokesperson from South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust added: “This summer we have struggled to reach patients on various occasions due to vehicles being parked inappropriately… We urge people to park sensibly and to show consideration for emergency vehicle access.”
Bell told the BBC that visitor numbers were up by an estimated 20% this summer on the usual 4.5 million visitors per year due to the heatwave, with people flocking to the south west to escape hot cities.
One solution would be to vary school holiday periods across the country, he added, something Visit Cornwall has lobbied the government about for many years.