- One local says Bath city centre is a ‘jarring tourist swarm’ at weekends
- Fodor’s: ‘It’s the tourists who don’t spend money in the city who are the problem’
- READ MORE: Fodor’s reveals its 2024 GO and NO lists
Is it time to pull the plug on Bath as a tourist destination?
That’s the question that leading travel guide Fodor’s Travel has asked its readers, in light of the fact that the ancient city – home to renowned Roman baths and stunning Georgian architecture – ‘struggles to deal with levels of tourism it just wasn’t built for’.
Fodor’s Travel’s Samantha Priestley points out that in high season and on weekends, visitors outnumber the locals in the city – population 94,000 – 63 to one.
John Gower, Executive Chairman and CEO of Dialect, a specialist gaming and tech agency based in Bath, tells her that at the weekends in the city centre a ‘vibrant, energetic café society’ becomes a ‘tourist swarm that’s jarring’.
Fodor’s Travel says: ‘It’s the tourists who don’t stay long and don’t spend any money inside the city who are the problem.
Is it time to pull the plug on Bath (above) as a tourist destination? That’s the question that leading travel guide Fodor’s Travel has asked its readers, in light of the fact that the ancient city ‘struggles to deal with levels of tourism it just wasn’t built for’
‘Day-trippers create congestion on the roads and in the streets while contributing very little to the economy. [They] are a source of frustration for many locals who see their presence as an inconvenience.’
Although that’s not a view shared by all.
Libby Windle, founder of Shop Local Bath, tells Fodor’s: ‘I personally love having a busy tourist industry in Bath and having lots of different people from all over the world visiting our beautiful city.
‘Obviously, it can get busy sometimes, which can get frustrating if you’re trying to get from A to B in the city centre quickly, by transport or by foot, but it’s worth that.’
Fodor’s Travel puts forward the suggestion that a tourist tax ‘might create a more pleasant environment for intentional, considerate tourists to enjoy the city’s culture and history, and worries over what tourism does to historical sites could be allayed by the funds for their upkeep and protection’.
Fodor’s Travel says: ‘It’s the tourists who don’t stay long and don’t spend any money inside the city who are the problem [in Bath]’
In the meantime, editors at Fodor’s Travel are mulling whether to add Bath to its influential No List – ‘places you should reconsider visiting’ that are suffering from over-tourism.
The 2024 edition has just been released, as we reported. Watch this space to see if Bath makes the 2025 edition.
Of course, Bath isn’t the only English destination struggling with visitor numbers.
Earlier this year we reported how tourist-magnet Bourton-on-the-Water in the Cotswolds was forced to remind visitors that it’s not a theme park – and does not ‘open and close’.
Rough Guides describes it as ‘one of the most romantic places in the UK’, while the Bourton-on-the-Water website, Bourtoninfo.com, tells visitors: ‘Bourton is not a theme park, it does not open and close, nor is there an entry fee. It is a vibrant village, home to some 4,000 residents, buzzing with many community groups, local events and fantastic small businesses.’
It adds: ‘Known as the Venice of the Cotswolds, this one village offers a wealth of attractions and shops, restaurants, cafes and tea rooms. Or simply the space for you to enjoy some pleasurable time engrossed by the movement of the sparkling waters of the River Windrush, spanned by its five arched bridges.’