Events to bring in the visitors – getting the balance right is key 5 Mar 2019
I live in St Albans. I love St Albans. So, when I saw the chance to bring the UK’s Strongest Man event to St Albans, I jumped at the opportunity. I know that high profile and popular events are great for the tourism value of a place; so I thought it could be a good thing for my city, as well as very convenient for me!
But it was a risk: having always taken place – for the past 15 years – in Northern Ireland, there was no guarantee that the die-hard fans would travel to our city, or that the people of St Albans would take the event to their hearts. I needn’t have worried. More than 10,000 people enjoyed the spectacular competition in Verulamium Park on a sunny day in what was a VERY sunny summer. Families and friends enjoyed three days of great strongman action, live music, free kids’ entertainment and great food and drink.
And then another two million people watched the tournament on Channel 5 at the end of the year; and were on the edge of their seats as Pa O’Dwyer came from behind to win by just one point over England’s Phil Roberts in the most exciting final in the event’s 15-year history. As far as a TV advert for St Albans goes – this was the best. Drone footage at the top of the show was stunning: a panoramic view of our beautiful city.
And around 90% of the attendees to the event were not from St Albans, and Hertfordshire only accounted for around a third of attendees. This is great for the city – many of these visitors spent money in the city after the tournament; and a fair few of them would have returned to St Albans another day having seen how beautiful it is. But I want to change the balance a bit. It’s good to have visitors – they are good for the local economy – but I also want to get the people of St Albans more involved.
So this year I am using mainly St Albans-based suppliers. Local businesses such as the wonderful Ye Olde Fighting Cocks pub and HIIT Kitchen are involved in the 2019 event. I am supporting local charities such as Home-Start Herts, and I am looking to use some local music acts too.
And I am reaching out to local schools to get youngsters involved in the event. I am holding a series of pre-events in the city centre in the lead-up to the main competition, so that the city-centre businesses can also benefit from the increased footfall. We have UK’s Strongest Kid competition planned for the city centre on Easter Monday, and, we are also now planning to bring the drama of the Truck Pull event – usually a headliner event at the competition – to the people of St Albans by hopefully holding it in the centre of St Albans in the summer.
I don’t need to change the balance – UK’s Strongest Man has fans across the country. But for me, as a St Albans resident, it is important to make it an event for the city, as well as an event that brings in visitors from outside.
The balance is key: events need to be good for the city that is gracious enough to hold them, as well as good for the event organiser.
For more information about the UK’s Strongest Man, go to https://www.ultimatestrongman.tv/uks-strongest-man-2019/
This article, written by David McConachie, was originally published in the Herts Advertiser in April 2019 on behalf of the St Albans Visitor Partnership.