Increase in visitors puts smile on Stamford’s face

Welcome To Stamford sign, Old Great North Road, Stamford.
Welcome To Stamford sign, Old Great North Road, Stamford.
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Businesses in Stamford have received a welcome boost this summer as thousands more visitors have flocked to the town.

The “significant increase” in visitors in June, July and August saw the tourist information centre hand out a record number of maps, handle more individual inquiries and welcome double the number of coaches into the town each week.

And Stamford Town Council, which launched tours at the town hall, has made it a regular Friday fixture with a tour every hour from 10am to 3pm because of demand.

Nearby attractions also may have benefited with Anglian Water, which owns and manages Rutland Water, reporting a 25 per cent rise in visitors on last year.

Thousands of tourists flock to the market town every year. But this year’s boom is thought to be the result of Stamford topping the Sunday Times list of Best Places to Live, which was published in March.

A spokesman for South Kesteven District Council said: “The phones never stopped ringing after that. More people than ever before have wanted to find out about Britain’s most complete stone town.”

In June, July and August alone 20 coaches a week brought visitors into the town – double the 10 coach loads for the same period last year, according to Stamford Tourist Information Centre based at Stamford Arts Centre.

The centre reported a rise of “at least 10 per cent” in the number of individual inquiries from people wanting to visit.

And in just the last three months its staff gave out 9,400 maps to visitors compared with 10,000 maps handed out during the whole of last year.

Manager Graham Burley said: “There’s been a significant increase in the number of inquiries this summer. The article has had a huge impact.”

Mr Burley said the only time he remembers a similar buzz was when Pride and Prejudice was filmed in Stamford in September, 2004.

He added: “That was the last time we gave out a record number of maps, but then special themed ones had been printed for it.”

President of Stamford Chamber of Trade and Commerce Tim Lee said most businesses in the town were optimistic about the economic situation.

“Retail sales have increased overall, particularly in pubs, clubs and cafes,” he said.

The warm summer and families holidaying at home had also helped, he said.

Key tourist places in the town have reported more visitors this summer.

At Burghley House numbers were up 17 per cent up on last year over June, July and August.

Marketing manager Jo Tinker said: “We have been delighted that so many people have come to visit Burghley over recent months.

“Our first Film Festival attracted more than 7,000 people during the first weekend in August and helped make this summer a bumper year for visitors.”

At the George Hotel bedroom bookings were up 19 per cent on 2012. More people also ate at its restaurants.

General manager Chris Pitman said: “The Courtyard has been completely booked up from morning coffee through to lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.

“It has been a fantastic summer, thanks to the Sunday Times article and the brilliant weather.“

Mr Pitman said its customers tended to be regulars but this year they had seen a lot of people who had never been to the hotel before.

District council leader Linda Neal (Con) said: “We are extremely fortunate to have a town with the character and beauty of Stamford within the district.

“We have always known it’s a fabulous place to live, but the newspaper article confirmed it on a national stage.

“We shall do all we can to build on that to promote the town.”

The boom is expected to continue when the town hosts its first Georgian Festival from September 27 to 29.

Organised by the district council, the festival will include period street performers, talks about the era and popular children’s favourite the Horrible Histories.

The value of the tourism within the district council’s visitor economy was worth £117m last year.

Stamford’s top spot in the list of places to live in England was compiled by the Sunday Times using data such as crime statistics, school performance and house prices.

Community spirit, proximity to places designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and transport links were also considered.