After the national press reported some of the strange questions asked of tourist offices across the country this week, including “Are there any lakes in the Lake District?”, “Is Wales closed in the Winter?” and ” What time of night does the Loch Ness monster surface and who feeds it?” I wondered what questions were asked of Lancaster and Morecambe’s Tourism offices, and I’ve written a story for Virtual-Lancaster based on the response I got from our obliging Council press office, which I thought I ‘d share with you as some New Year amusement.
It’s clear they get their fair share of the strange, and answer them with a mix of patience and the usual forthright responses you’d expect.
The Tourist Office has details of over 300 strange questions asked in 2006, but a selection of their favourites includes “Is Morecambe north or south of Pontefract?”, ” Do you need a passport to go to The Isle of Man?”, How do I stop my telephone bill while I’m on holiday? I live in West Yorkshire” and “Does the ferry go right into the port?” (No, it ditches you in the sea!)
Other general questions included “Is the beach open?”, ” Can you put me on your mailing list for shows in Manchester?” and “Have the guided walks been stopped because of the petrol shortage?”
A display by the Red Arrows in Morecambe provoked some strange questions. ” When the Red Arrows come, will you be opening The Platform doors to let them in?” asked one bemused visitor, while another asked “Where will the Red Arrows be?” In the sky, hopefully – and they were, as anyone who watched the impressive show last year will recall
Major local events such as Lancaster’s Fireworks Night generate plenty of questions. ” What time are the fireworks?” asked one Lancaster customer. “About ten o’clock,” replied the dutiful Tourist officer.
“Oh,” pondered the visitor. “Is that at night?”
Morecambe’s location seems to confound some visitors. Several visitors ask questions about Blackpool rather than our local seaside town, one asking for a list of Blackpool churches and tourism figures for Blackpool Pleasure Beach. One asked for a list of hotels which was immediately supplied. “Oh, great,” came the enthused response. Then: “And they’re all close to Robin Hood’s Bay, are they?”
Sometimes, Tourist Information has to refer visitors to Council offices elsewhere in our area. When one tourist was advised they should visit the City Council’s Arts and Events office to answer their queries, the visitor responded “Have they got a door?”
The best answer to a question I was sent has to be the response to the poser “What does the Eric Morecambe statue on the promenade weigh?”
“We he he!” replied the staff member, aping one of Eric Morecambe’s famous phrases. Yes, we can just picture the blank face of the tourist who got that response.
The Tourism offices deal with thousands of visitor queries a month, so you’d expect some oddities amongst the many sensible ones. But there are some that stump even the best brains on Castle Hill or the Platform offices. One worried caller rang to ask “My catheter is leaking. What should I do?”
“Have you tried your doctor?” replied the officer, helpfully.
“Yes, but there was no reply,” said the caller, “So I thought I would try you…”
When I worked in a bookstore right on Princes St in Edinburgh I had many tourists, usually American, ask how to find the Castle. I would take their arm, walk them to the door, point out the enormous extinct volcano rising right up in front of them dominating the whole city with a very large castle-shaped object on the top. There is it, I’d say. They really didn’t see it…
Local councillor Ron Sands, who used to work for the local Tourism office here in Lancaster has just read this story and recalls “We used to anthologise the choicest [questions] when I worked for the Lake District National Park, but my memory fails me now. Though I still recall “Which is the way to the Beatrix Potteries” and “How old is the Old Man of Coniston”.