CULTURE Secretary Oliver Dowden got into the spirit of English Tourism Week with a tour of Shakespeare’s England.
Mr Dowden visited Shakespeare Distillery in Stratford where he was shown around the site by directors Simon Picken and Peter Monks before making his own bottle of gin, which he named Blythe Spirit after his wife.
During the visit organised through Shakespeare’s England – which promotes tourism in the region – he heard how the company had benefitted from the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to keep on its staff, and the support funds made available to help businesses survive and recover from the pandemic.
For the distillery, that has included buying new equipment, expanding their tour space, and into a neighbouring unit to create extra storage space. The company has also opened a shop in the town centre to support other local artisan drinks businesses by offering them retail space.
Mr Dowden said: “We have a real opportunity to make sure we spread the tourism wealth and spend outside of the big attractions to the smaller, but equally important destinations like Shakespeare’s Distillery which has a fantastic offer. It’s a great place to visit and I had a brilliant time making my own gin, and I’m sure many people can enjoy it too.”
Peter Monks, director of Shakespeare Distillery, added: “We were delighted to host the Secretary of State and to get the opportunity to tell him about the challenges we’ve faced during the pandemic, but also about the positive effects that the financial support made available to us has had on our survival and our recovery.
“It’s been a tough year, but we’ve remained positive about the future and have plans in place to continue to grow our business as restrictions continue to be eased.”
Mr Dowden also stopped off at the new Telegraph Hotel and recently refurbished Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, both in Coventry — the UK’s City of Culture — before heading for lunch at The Fleece Inn in Bretforton.
All four are members of Shakespeare’s England, the Destination Management Organisation for the region.
Shakespeare’s England chief executive Helen Peters said: “The hospitality and tourism sector has been hit hardest by the pandemic and while many of our members have now managed to reopen in some capacity, we must remember that this is not over for them and the road to recovery will be long.
“We’re delighted that the Secretary of State wanted to come to the area so we could show him how our members are getting back on their feet. We now want people to follow in his footsteps and discover the very many fantastic places to go and things to do right on their own doorstep.”