Chorley is to get its own dedicated tourism officer to help it capitalise on the “significant number” of American visitors expected as part of the forthcoming commemoration of the ‘Mayflower’ voyage.
2020 marks the four hundredth anniversary of when the famous vessel set sail for what is now the United States, carrying a group which became known as the Pilgrim Fathers. A year-long nationwide programme of events will begin this November to mark the anniversary.
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Chorley is hoping to make the most of its connection to a local lad who was a key figure in the expedition – military adviser Miles Standish. He helped the pilgrims to establish new colonies in Plymouth, a coastal area of Massachusetts, following a feud over religious beliefs back home.
Standish is believed to have heralded from the Duxbury estate in Chorley, with connections to the villages of Croston and Mawdesley.
Chorley councillors unanimously backed a proposal to set aside £57,000 of unspent cash from its budget to cover the cost of the borough’s involvement in the events – and to fund its own tourism officer. The post is initially for a fixed 18-month period, but deputy leader Peter Wilson indicated that the authority was also looking to the future.
“We know Chorley is a fantastic area to visit and a great number of people come here every year – but our intention [with the Mayflower commemorations] is to bring people over from the US in significant numbers.
“And it doesn’t just stop there – the principle is to employ an officer who can continue to look at the tourism theme. That ties in directly to the work we have done on the other events which we run – like the flower show – which also bring people into the borough,” Cllr Wilson said.
The meeting heard that the Mayflower effect was already beginning to be felt, with Chorley’s historical and archaeological society seeing a growth in the number of hits on its website from the United States.
Council leader Alistair Bradley praised the volunteer work which has gone into the creation of heritage trails in the area which launched earlier this month.
Conservative opposition leader Martin Boardman said that he fully supported the plans – quipping that the idea of a tourism officer had featured in his group’s alternative budget earlier this year. But he called for any additional events planned over the next year to be fully funded upfront.
“We [should] budget for these events at the beginning of the financial year so we’re not relying on underspends from the previous one,” Cllr Boardman said.
Cllr Wilson confirmed that the intention was to set a budget and stay within it – but that any additional money which did become available would provide flexibility for the programme of events.