Weymouth is open for business, that’s the message from traders as they face lower than expected visitor numbers to the town.
Traders have said that far from the thousands of tourists expected to flock to the resort they are down on what they were expecting and that Weymouth was more like a busy summer day than the predicted Olympic fever.
Traders said they were trying to stay proactive and positive and make the most of the Olympic opportunity but they wanted to get the message out that Weymouth was open, accessible and that people should come down.
Sam Roots of EDZ on the Esplanade said that people were ‘having a laugh’ if they thought that there were the expected 60,000 people in the borough.
She said: “It’s a little bit better than we expected. We expected it to be really dead. It’s not busier than a normal season.”
She added that Saturday’s Battle for the Winds performance had been good for business and she would have liked to see events in town like it.
She said: “That had the carnival day atmosphere. If it was like that it would be great.”
Staff at EDZ had been using bicycles to get to work but soon returned to using their cars when they realised the town wasn’t as busy as expected.
Mrs Roots said she was concerned about the legacy left by the Games. She said: “It’s going to take us two or three years to recover from this supposed legacy.”
Phoenix Bakery owner Aidan Chapman said they were trying to get involved in different activities and were hosting an exhibition of work about the town and its namesake in Massachusetts by Paul Soulellis as part of the b-side festival.
Mr Chapman said: “I think it’s going to be a good summer. I don’t think it’s going to be more than a good summer.
“I think certain people are staying away because of the Olympics whereas others are coming in for them.”
He said he thought there would be an increase in visitors to the area after 2012.
At Tilleys bike shop on St Thomas Street manager Roger Cattle said they were quite happy with the way things were going at the moment and that they were ‘keeping an open mind’.
The shop rents out bikes and Mr Cattle said that they had been finding the support crews had been renting them out.
He said: “At the moment you have to be optimistic. Everyone’s telling us it’s good for the town so let’s see if it is. At the moment we are quite happy.”
Weymouth’s Punch and Judy performer Mark Poulton said he didn’t want to appear negative about the Olympics as it was a ‘brilliant opportunity for the town’ but that he would have liked to see the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games (LOCOG) coming to speak to traders and more involvement of locals in attractions like the Weymouth Bayside Festival.
He said: “I don’t think there’s anything now they could do to improve the situation, I think it’s too late.
“The families, for most of us on the beach, are our bread and butter and the families aren’t here.”
He said that since it is nearly August the beach should be heaving. He said: “There shouldn’t be any spaces on the beach.”
Trader’s sign of the times
ONE trader is making sure the people who do come to Weymouth for the Olympics support local shops.
Janet Blakey of Broadwey Village Stores say she is aware people might be put off going into town but she says it is a once in a lifetime event which must be supported.
The sign she has put up outside her shop in Dorchester Road urges support for Team GB and the Olympics – as well as local shops. Mrs Blakey has also decorated the shop with flags and bunting.
“I want people to buy local and support the small traders,” said Mrs Blakey.
She added: “There’s been so much doom and gloom about the Olympics. Well now it’s here I think we should get behind our team. The Olympics is every four years but in Weymouth and Portland it’s once in a lifetime, there won’t be another chance so let’s embrace it.”