Over the past few weeks I’ve talked about how the town is tentatively planning to recover from a post-pandemic world; I’ve talked how businesses are adapting to a ‘new normal’ and what support mechanisms have been put in place to help. I’ve talked about how the Town Council is investing in both physical and cultural renewal. But one aspect of life that I’ve not written about is tourism. Although our neighbours in Wells may attract more visitors to their immediate city in normal times, Shepton draws thousands of visitors to events and places that us locals sometimes forget are part of our townscape. Whether they be the Glastonbury Festival, numerous events at the Bath and West, a day out shopping in Kilver Court or a peruse around the prison, we punch well above our weight for the ‘tourist pound’. This has been historically in no small part due to our former Tourist Information Centre, run by local legend Lorraine Pratten and her dedicated colleagues. It was sad to see the closure of our local TIC last year, but the realities of visitors booking directly online for events and attractions was undoubtedly a factor it was having to contend with.

Now however is a time to look forward. I’m pleased to say the Town Council is working closely with Mendip District Council and Visit Somerset in developing a new tourism plan which should result in a ‘joined-up’ way of marketing our town. Coming very shortly will be a new, dedicated ‘Shepton Mallet’ section on the Visit Somerset website with information about local attractions, what to see and do and where to stay. The plan, still in development, should result in improved online search results for Shepton enabling visitors to explore our town’s offering before they arrive. Who of us hasn’t sat on their phone of an evening planning (or maybe dreaming) of their next holiday? As part of this new initiative, local businesses who work with the visitor economy – curiosity shops, gift shops, artisan food shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, attractions, B&Bs, art shops, vintage shops, antiques shops and more – are being invited to apply for free ‘Silver’ membership on the new Visit Somerset platform (usually worth £425 per business). To find out more, email Toby.Jones@visitsomerset.co.uk to find out how to apply. Let’s show everyone what Shepton has to offer!

So, more activity we are delivering that adapts to our changing world. By not only improving our town for locals, we hope we can also showcase our town to the wider world.

Until next time.
Matt Harrison, Chairperson