A MINI Stratford-on-Avon 5,00 miles away could bring a massive tourism boost to the town.
Visits by Chinese tourists to England have increased by nearly 50 per cent over the past year and plans to pay homage to Shakespeare’s hometown in China could draw even more visitors.
‘Stratford Little Town’ would be one of three parts of a proposed development for Sanweng Town – which would pay homage to Shakespeare and his contemporaries – Chinese writer Tang Xianzu and Spanish author Miguel de Cervantes, best known for writing Don Quixote.
The concept for the recreation is to bring elements of Stratford, as Shakespeare would have known it, to China.
Two of the Bard’s homes – his birthplace and his final home at New Place – could feature along with Holy Trinity Church and replicas of some of the town’s historical streets.
Philippa Rawlinson, from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was among a group of delegates who traveled to Fuzhou City to see the initial plans for Sanweng.
She said: “We were delighted to have the opportunity to learn more about Fuzhou’s ambitious plans to create an international heritage and cultural centre, including proposals to recreate the world famous Shakespeare family homes which the trust cares for.
“We will need to consider how this project in China might support our work as the charity responsible for preserving the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage sites and collections here in the UK as well as promoting the enjoyment and understanding of his works life and times around the world.
“It is still early days, and we will be exploring options with potential partners here and in Fuzhou. It’s an honour that people from around the world want to not only visit the Shakespeare properties but also want to recreate them.”
The trust is already geared up for more visitors from foreign shores. It is already producing guides in eight different languages including Mandarin, and its shops, ticket desks and website are set up with Union Pay for easy international transactions.
Stratford District Council chairman Chris Saint, who was among the delegation to Fuzhou, is hoping to continue working with planners in Fuzhou and those working on the proposal for Sanweng Town.
He said updated proposals were expected before plans for Stratford Little Town were finalised.
Coun Saint told the Observer: “More detailed plans will emerge – these first plans are speculative and could change.
“Our delegation were asked to feedback on the ideas in the first plan during our visit to China and the people we spoke to showed a great interest in what we had to say.
“We suggested the Guild Hall could be included which would bring the Shakespeare Schoolroom concept into the mix.”
And travel company Beiwei 55, which provides tours in Mandarin around the town, believe Stratford Little Town can only be a good thing for the real thing.
Managing director Jay Smith says having content in different languages is key – British tourists tend to take for granted how much is in the English language when they travel.
He added: “The more Stratford is known in China, the more known it is when people travel to the UK and people want to see the real thing.
“The town is already doing well at making languages – including Mandarin – available to tourists.”