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Recession Road: Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Phil Coomes | 11:17 UK time, Thursday, 17 September 2009

This post is from our Recession Road series, part of our special report on the global downturn.

Gary Watson

Day Four of the road trip, and it feels like Edinburgh is but a stroll from here, along one of the most picturesque parts of the A1.

Holy Island of LindisfarneWe started out the day at Holy Island, or Lindisfarne, founded by St Aidan in AD 635 and an important centre of early Christianity. It's really busy with visitors coming by coach and car, the weather is glorious and we have a happy tale to report. All is well with the world.

At the Island Store, owner Gary Watson sells all manner of things, from Lindisfarne Mead ("a legend in a glass") to postcards, jars of instant coffee and religious paraphernalia.

He's busy receiving a delivery amid a steady stream of customers bustling around the shop. How's the business been coping with the downturn?

Keyrings for sale"I've had the shop for 18 years and this year I've seen the most significant growth I've ever had," beams Gary.

Over the summer, there has been a massive rise in tourists coming from other European countries like Holland, Belgium, France and Germany, he says: "I used to get about 20 foreign tourists a day and now it's more like 100."

He believes it's not just the weak pound driving the increase, but special offers run by a ferry company operating between Amsterdam and Newcastle.

Recession Road routeOver the winter, they weren't getting the usual level of advance bookings from British people, so they dropped their prices for European travellers to encourage them to visit the UK, adds Gary.

Moreover, they provided suggested routes in the north of England, with Holy Island being one of the stops on the list.

As for his British customers, he's noticed they are watching their wallets a bit more than before.

"Credit and debt card use is down about 50%. People seem to have worked out how much they have and use cash, whereas before they would have said 'let's just get it and stick it on the card'."

You can read an explanation of our Recession Road series here. Words: Paula Dear; Images: Phil Coomes.

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