Overcrowded, overpriced and overrated: welcome to Britain

Lonely Planet's latest verdict may burst the royal wedding tourism bubble

Tom Peck
Wednesday 11 May 2011 00:00

With the world's attention undoubtedly caught by the royal wedding, the nation's hoteliers, restaurateurs and tourist attraction operators will barely have time to take the bunting down before next year's Diamond Jubilee, and then the small matter of the 2012 Olympics Games.

Most might be hoping that the millions of tourists expected to arrive will not pick up the latest edition of longstanding travel bible Lonely Planet's guide to Great Britain, lest they take one look, turn around and head off again. "Britain ain't cheap," it warns in its opening pages. "Public transport, admission fees, restaurants and hotel rooms all tend to be expensive compared with their equivalents in many other European countries."

Stoke is picked out as "a sprawl of industrial townships tied together by flyovers and bypasses", while leafier Surrey is "made up of uninspiring towns and dull, sprawling suburbs".

"We're not a tourist board," said the book's co-ordinating author, David Else. "We're not trying to promote any place, we're telling it how it is."

Many more places simply haven't made the cut at all. "We only have limited time and space," said Else. A glance at the index reveals Brae, in the Shetland Islands, but no Bradford.

The verdict on Leicester is diplomatic: "Alive with the sights, sounds and flavours of the subcontinent, creating a strange juxtaposition with the Victorian factories and eyesore concrete architecture." And the book praises London as "one of the world's great cities, if not the greatest" – provided you are happy to "fork out £30 in a restaurant for a 'modern European' concoction that tastes like it came from a can".

"Unfortunately at a time when everyone is in desperate need of a great value summer getaway some of Britain's tourism industry just doesn't deliver," said Else.

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