Friday, 1 November 2013

Birmingham (not Alabama)

From The Independent

The citizens of Birmingham are keenly aware of the snobbery and accent-mocking humour about their beloved home, emanating mostly from London’s chattering classes. But, for the second time in two years, England’s second city has received glowing praise from an international destination that outdoes London in many respects: New York.

New York Magazine has advised its readers to go to “Birmingham instead of London” in an article this week that trumpeted the city’s attractions from the culinary delights of the Balti Triangle to “the world renowned” Birmingham Royal Ballet, its thriving jewellery trade and music scene. A lack of tourist hordes was another reason.

The lack of tourist hordes is because actually, there's not much that visitors want to see. If there was, there would be tourist hordes. Unfortunately, that's how it works. You can find places that appeal to a niche that you have that aren't too busy, but as a rule, the good places get visitors.

I wouldn't agree with that advice about Birmingham at all. The curries are great. And cheap. And most of the places in Sparkbrook don't have licenses, so you bring your own which is a lot cheaper. And yes, the ballet and the CBSO have a good reputation. But the Jewellery Quarter is nothing to write home about and as for the music scene, there might have been 30 years ago, but if there's a place to see bands, I couldn't find it. And it's mostly architecturally horrible in the centre.

They missed the best thing to visit which is the Edgbaston Botanical Gardens which are really lovely, and some of the best I've been to.


Ian Hills said...

Bugger tax-supported tourist offices, they just distort the market. We didn't need them in the 19th century when tourism began to flourish.

Bayard said...

"but as a rule, the good places get visitors."

The further north you go, the less this holds true, until you start again in Edinburgh perhaps, probably because most tourists fly into London. Durham is a case in point.

BTW wasn't that article next to one saying how the Concorde de nos jours, HS2, is going to make a huge profit on the public money invested?

The Stigler said...


That's a fair point, especially with international visitors (but also more generally about population).

But even UK residents don't go there for a weekend, but will go to York or Chester, or in the midlands, Warwick and Stratford.

Best use of Birmingham is as a place to stay. It's quite cheap for hotel rooms, and places like Stratford and Warwick are easy to get to.

The Stigler said...

Ian Hills,

In a popular tourist destination, a tourist information office is a good thing. It's a shared service that helps tourists which means that all the hotel, restaurant and attraction owners have happy tourists who tell their friends how great it is and come back again. And the cost is tiny.

But in a place like Swindon, it makes no sense at all. People come to Swindon to get some internet routers customised, not for the architecture.