Bournemouth is arguably Britain’s most popular seaside resort but its success is not simply 7 miles of wonderful beach but the diverse experience now on offer. Given the competition with other resorts (and not just in the UK) all seaside towns must offer not just an attractive location but an experience. Bournemouth leads the way in constantly re-inventing itself and offering a wider variety of options for visitors and residents who are ever more selective in the experience they seek.
Ten years ago, there was little to distinguish one section of the beach from another, today it is zoned to cater for sports and family activities, concerts and major events such as the air show and wheels festival. And to those that want to stay connected to the virtual world wifi is now available in some areas.
All this does however result in a lot of activity and there is a slice of the population that, on occasions would like to enjoy a quieter experience free from sports activities, bbq’s or indeed mobile phones ringing.
The New Forest is currently testing out a programme where visitors embarking on walks voluntarily hand over their mobile devices in order to ensure a clean break from the 24/7 virtual world we now experience. Excursions can be enjoyed without interruptions from emails from the office, social media messaging. (Click here for the link to the BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House programme where I join Paddy O'Connell to discuss this).
The New Forest concept is clearly not appropriate for Bournemouth Beach but it did prompt me to think about the value of quiet zones on trains and whether such areas would be appropriate on the beach for those who seek (or genuinely need) some moments of peace and quiet by the beautiful Bournemouth sea. I don’t for one moment envisage closing off swathes of beach where public library standards of silence are enforced, but simply allocating a ‘quiet zone’ between two areas free of sports activities, where people are encouraged to keep the noise to a minimum. How should it be policed? By consent – there is nothing more powerful than the law abiding reserved British majority making selfish individual(s) feel ashamed and out of place!
As I said, Bournemouth does an incredible job in offering an ever diverse tourism package to those who live, work and visit here. Quiet zones might be an interesting and popular addition and worth a pilot.