I suppose we must be doing something right in promoting the UK as a tourist destination if we’ve got visitors coming from outer space. I’m sure many of you saw the pictures of yours truly dishing out ice cream to Star Wars villains Darth Vader & co on Weston Pier to mark the start of English Tourism week. Just please save the jokes about politicians joining the dark side – I think I’ve heard them all by now!
Of course it was all in a good cause and, usually, I’d go to almost any lengths to promote UK tourism - especially Weston. But it wasn’t quite the staged photo op that it seemed. It just happened that my visit to the Grand Pier coincided with a sci-fi convention, so Kerry Michaels and I decided it would make a fun photo. As it turns out the result was pretty entertaining and, well, out of this world, although my press officer practically had kittens when he heard about it. Keeps him young, I always say!
On the whole though, I’m happy to leave the in-front-of-the-camera part of the job to A-list stars, as they’re much better at it than I am. If you’ve seen Stephen Fry, Michelle Dockery, Julie Walters and Rupert Grint in our TV advert extolling the wonderful vistas, buildings, food and entertainment our country has to offer, you’ll know what I’m talking about. We’ve organised the first campaign to promote British holidays to us Brits for decades and, so far, it’s generated quite a buzz with lots of online and press coverage.
What else? Ah yes. Part of being tourism Minister includes horseracing – don’t ask me why; it just does. And that means I got to go to Cheltenham for the Festival and it counted as work. I know, I know: it’s a tough job but someone has to do it…… Anyway, I was there on the Thursday when Big Bucks made racing history by becoming the first horse ever to win the World Hurdle four times in a row, and I got to present the trophy to his owners. Every sport needs its heroes, and he’s definitely one of racing’s best. It was a huge privilege to see it happen, and one of those moments when you’re proud to say ‘I was there’. Didn’t bet on him, of course, but that’s just typical I suppose…….