Friday, March 27, 2009

Going downhill - fast!

Another Friday arrives and I am rapidly clearing my desk before heading off to Zurs in Austria for a week's skiing with my wife and family - second year on the slopes for the girls and hopefully they will come on leaps and bounds (well not literally!) this time around - 40 cms of snow fell in the resort yesterday so conditions should be excellent.

We have all continued to support Mary, Dominic and Tanya in every way we can as they prepare to say goodbye to their Tony - I am very distressed that I cannot make it to the funeral on Tuesday but I know in my heart that Tony would have expected me to stick with Plan A and to go skiing with my family - but my thoughts will be with Tony's family and friends and with my work colleagues on Tuesday for what will be a very sad occasion - but what must also be a positive (and happy if possible) celebration of a great man who will never be forgotten.

'British Tourism Week' has flown by - commencing last Monday with an "Explore Oxfordshire" exhibition at the Barcelo Oxford Hotel which was preceded by a Tourism Business Breakfast at which I was asked to speak - always good to have an opportunity to "promote" Blenheim Palace and to also highlight the enormous tourism potential that exists across Oxford and Oxfordshire - so many strong brands, strong personalities and strong businesses - hopefully we can better harness and focus these opportunities for the County moving forward. Does 'British Tourism Week' make a difference - I remain to be convinced as to whether it has any effect whatsoever but at least an attempt by VisitBritain to raise the profile should be applauded and supported - especially during these challenging times.

Much of the week has been dominated by discussions surrounding world heritage site funding - the All-Party Parliamentary World Heritage Sites Group met at Westminster and was addressed by Barbara Follett MP, the Minister for Tourism, and it is always good to have a chance to interface with the Minister regarding key issues - and to be able to reiterate our view that we are badly treated here at Blenheim Palace in that we are the "only" UK mainland world heritage site that is ineligible to apply for any external funding (from the Heritage Lottery Fund in particular) due to our status as a privately owned site. This seems to us grossly unjust - world heritage status (granted here at Blenheim Palace back in 1987) should represent something very special and should be acknowledged as such through appropriate funding support. We are making lots of noise on this; we are being listened to very sympathetically in most quarters (for which we are most grateful) but it will take more time for funding changes to be introduced to level the playing field across all UK mainland world heritage sites - but we won't stop trying!

The week ends with plans being finalised for a premises licence application to be submitted to our local authority regarding a one day concert/event in June 2009 - this will raise money for a very worthwhile national cause and could be an exciting event in our summer calendar. Time is very tight for the licence to be sorted; artists to be contracted and tickets to be sold but the organisers are very focused and we are doing everything possible to support their efforts. As I have said before, watch this space and we will tell more on this when we can!!

And so it's off home to pack with time running out - reality will hit on Sunday morning when I realise that I should have done some exercises before launching myself down the slopes - the old bones will no doubt ache but hopefully we will all return in one piece!


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