Early decision needed for TT 2002

The Department of Tourism and Leisure is pressing the government for a commitment to stage next year's TT.

Terry Toohey, chief executive, said a paper outlining the department's case had been submitted and is due to go before the Council of Ministers. The department has also applied to the Treasury for 'substantially' more funding. Mr Toohey said: 'Basically we are looking for a decision - mid October.' He said the department was seeking the go-ahead to start marketing the TT based on the assumption if foot-and-mouth still existed in the UK the department would do 'everything we have to do to minimise the risk factor'. He said that if the TT does not take place next year 'all the doom-and-gloom pundits' are likely to be proved right. 'We need an answer before the end of October so we can get onto the marketing trail which commences with a big motor bike show at the NEC in November.

And equally so, the whole motor bike fraternity must know exactly what the situation is. 'We are working towards the fact that the TT will happen. We sincerely and earnestly hope that foot-and-mouth is going to disappear ... but the plans we're making relate to bringing in measures ... relating to fencing and other areas that will keep people out of the countryside but still not diminish the pleasures that they have had in the past as part of watching the TT. 'The fact that we had 15,000 people here during the TT this year provided us with pretty good experience in terms of how to control numbers, albeit 15,000 is not 40,000. 'So we're going ahead - we firmly believe in our heart of hearts it is going to happen, but yes we are telling the powers that be that we need an answer sooner rather than later.

Asked as to the likely consequences of the TT not being staged in 2002, Mr Toohey said: 'We've spelt out in fairly extensive detail in the paper what the alternative is.' Geoff Le Page, director of tourism, said the department had 'made a case to Treasury for us to retain additional marketing monies'. He would not put a figure on the request.

'Our advertising stake is about £750,000 - we are hoping to get substantially more than that for the next year.' Mr Le Page said there was also an urgent need for footpaths to be open. 'The Isle of Man is probably the only place in Britain where footpaths are actually closed. 'I can understand the reasons behind it ... but that's a market that the Island has actually wooed for the last three or four years. 'The closure hurt us when it first started. Our desire is to get that back up and running. One of the ironic things was that we were talking to a major walking event organiser about holding an event in the Isle of Man in 2002. I won't say that's gone but you're now talking 2003. The sooner it's opened the better for tourism.'

Mr Le Page estimated it would take years to win back lost business from walkers. 'My feeling is that it would take us two years to get back to where we were and probably three before we are where we wanted to be. 'The difficulty is that it is now that we should be getting ready to promote it ... so we need some decision fairly early, otherwise we are just going to have to keep rolling things on and on.'

The department is in the process of putting out a tender for an independent consultant to conduct an audit of its five-year strategic plan and draw up one for the next five years. 'The consultants will need to assess what impact foot-and-mouth has had and which route do we take now.'

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