Croydon’s Secret Tourists

By - Tuesday 11th December, 2012

We might not have a giant wheel or a museum full of dinosaurs, but we should love Croydon for the same reasons thousands of tourists do

Croydon’s best kept secret is out – we are a hot tourist destination. Couples on a romantic weekend away, families looking for fun activities, backpackers seeing the world – all these and more make their way to our part of deep South London for great holiday experiences and go away raving about it. Next year, we can look forward to welcoming their friends.

Perhaps it’s our multiculturalism that makes them invisible – Croydon is London’s most populous borough and over 200 languages are spoken here. When you’re used to hearing half a dozen different voices on a single bus ride, new ones are no big deal. But just ask Central Croydon’s hoteliers how different their working lives would be without tourism:

Georgina Cooke, Sales Manager at Jurys Inn Croydon, said “tourist trade for us peaks in the summer months, with over 4000 guests per month visiting Jurys Inn Croydon from Germany, France, the Netherlands, America, Australia, and Asia. We promote Croydon for its excellent transport links, shopping, local visitor attractions, and its fantastic proximity to London.” Jack Cheng, Sales Manager at Holiday Inn Express, sums it up for his business by saying “tourism in Croydon is the life boat of our community.”

Alvin Shivmangal, manager of Croydon’s award-winning Visitor Centre, enthusiastically agrees. ‘Tourism is huge in Croydon  and we’ve responded to the demand. Most days someone will want a Croydon postcard, and we sell Duck Tours, red London bus tours, and West End tickets as well, all to the local tourist market. And it’s not just about London. We tell them about Croydon’s history –the places to see, the great restaurants we have, and all the things they can do, and we send them off to explore.”

We have much to learn from our hidden tourists. They are not jaded like too many of us

It might be a challenge for us as Croydonians to count ourselves with the London Eye, the National Gallery, and the Tower of London – but evidence of our thousand year history is all around us, from the early 17th century pottery discovered by archaeologists on London Road before new flats were built in 2006, to Therapia Lane, the tram stop named for the lavender grown there from 1749 and used for herbal therapies, the most famous of which was Mitcham Lavender Water.

Visitors to Croydon are captivated by stories of exciting historical events – heading to Old Croydon Airport to learn about Amy Johnson’s record-breaking flight to Australia in 1930 or peering through the gates of what is now Old Palace School and wondering about the ghost of Archbishop Laud. Understandably upset by his execution for treason in 1645, the spirit is said to have folornly wandered the Old Palace until driven out by a local vicar in 1923. Serious ghost hunters can go on the Old Town Ghost Walks offered by local company Croydon Tours.

Best of all, our most beautiful buildings – the Almshouses, the Minster, the Town Hall Museum – overwhelmed as some of them are by the more aggressive architecture of recent times  – can be visited on foot by those staying in the centre of town, making Croydon walking tours a popular summer draw. Add to the mix our exciting new Restaurant Quarter, with destination dining from the likes of Albert’s Table or Fish and Grill, and suddenly the enthusiasm of tourists for Croydon is no puzzle at all.

We have much to learn from our hidden tourists. They are not jaded like too many of us  – worn down by badmouthing,  bombarded with messages about how scuzzy, unsafe and depressing our part of the world is until we start to believe it. They see only what is in front of them – and they like it. Give them a warm Croydon welcome and their good word of mouth will spread and bring others – and with them, bring a welcome boost to the jobs and prosperity we all want to create for our town. Croydon tourists are one big secret that should definitely be told.

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Liz Sheppard-Jones

Writer and editor. Views personal, not representative of editorial policy.

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  • Andrew Dickinson

    wow.interesting info from the hoteliers and i didnt know the origin of Therapia Lane..A few years back i was approached outside the library by a gent who asked whether the clocktower was Big Ben!So i know tourists are around.Keep up the good work CVC!!

  • Adrian Winchester

    I’m pleased that the hotels are attracting so many visitors but I can’t help thinking that Croydon’s convenient location and transport links are a major factor. If most come because they genuinely do want to spend much of their leisure time in Croydon, I’m impressed that Croydon’s attributes are so widely known abroad, as I don’t suppose the town is promoted as a destination in many holiday brochures!

    • Liz Sheppard-Jones

      You’re right, our proximity to London does bring many of our visitors. However, I’m sure you’ll be interested to learn that Croydon is strongly promoted as a conference destination I also recommend the local history guided walks Croydon has beautiful parks, exciting modern restaurants, fascinating medieval buildings and over a thousand years of history, and I hope in future these things will occupy a more prominent place in the public mind than at present.