Banksy installation boosts Weston-super-Mare economy

<p>The anti-capitalist theme park is estimated to have brought £20 million to the local area.</p>

On August 20th, British artist Banksy opened an anti-capitalist theme park – called Dismaland – in Weston-super-Mare.

Since then, the work of the controversial artist has attracted more than £150,000 people to the seaside town. The temporary art show has sold more than 4,000 tickets a day and provided a hefty boost to the local economy.

According to Visit Somerset, the subversive theme park, which was opened in a seafront lido that had been derelict since 2000, has generated an extra £20 million for the area. That's more than three times what the trade body originally estimated.

Dismaland describes itself as offering "entry-level anarchism" and offers satire of the tourism and theme-park industries – particularly the Disney franchise.

More than expected

Commenting on the installation, John Turner of Visit Somerset said that it had gone "way beyond" anything that had been expected.

"This has been a global phenomenon of major importance for the region and underlines how important tourism can be in the local economy," he said.

Hotels and B&Bs have seen the biggest boost, especially for the usually quiet September period when most are only half-full. However, throughout the Dismaland show, almost every bed in Weston has been sold each night.

"Hotels have been much busier than normal and foreign visitors are from everywhere, which is fantastic," explained hotel owner Keith Fearn.

Mr Fearn also runs the town's Hoteliers Association and says his two establishments have been full every night. According to his calculations, an additional 50,000 nights have been sold in the town's hotels compared to the same period last year. He reckons that each guest spends an average of £150 a night, allowing for dinner and drinks.

Victoria Upward, who runs an Italian eatery says that restaurants have been busier than normal too. She says every night has been full, even midweek.

"Traditionally, we would have small families or coach trips, but we've had Americans, Germans, hipsters, new age travellers, you name it," she said.

Great Western Railways has also reported a doubling of numbers for the Paddington to Weston line, which equates to around £4.5 extra in revenue.

Irony

Those who have benefited from a boost in business thanks to the exhibition have also noted the irony – considering the theme of the show is anti-capitalism.

However, Banksy said he chose Weston because he went there every summer until he was 17 – "so perhaps he would feel a little less animosity to small local traders than multi-nationals," reports the BBC.

Mr Turner adds that the event shows that Weston-super-Mare can laugh at itself.

"Banksy has ripped the Michael out of us, but it's brought a great deal back into the local economy," he said.

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