03 JAN 2017: Residents of Kidlington, England have long enjoyed a quiet community with the amenities of a village hall, public library, two cafes and four restaurants. They had a zoo once, but only for a six-year run in the thirties, so when tourists started showing up last summer, townspeople were reasonably baffled. Perhaps none more so than the resident who found tourists bouncing on the trampoline in her garden?

All summer and into the fall, residents and the media alike were trying to figure out why Chinese tourist groups of up to 40 at a time were wandering the village streets, taking photos of parked cars and hanging flower baskets.

Kidlington is 5 km north of Oxford and 12 km south of Bicester and has a population of over 13,000. The villagers were more amused than annoyed with the tourists, who often knocked on their doors to indicate they wanted selfies taken with homeowners.

A language barrier prevented residents from learning why the tourists were in their village but by last fall theories were plentiful, and for the most part unlikely.

It was thought that the Asian visitors were confusing Kidlington for Kirtlington England, which is a nearby village, but with a population of fewer than 1,000 and no attraction to speak of, wouldn’t that be an equally implausible destination for high tourism numbers?

Suggestions were that the tourists thought they were in Harry Potter’s hometown, but the fictional Potter is from the fictional village of Little Whinging, so that doesn’t jive.

By the fall it was decided that the Chinese tourists were just looking for a true sense of an English village, where people lived in homes unlike their own.  This led to the townspeople’s enchantment with their visitors who were however ignoring the 18th century part of town and spending time in the modern section.

I didn’t buy it.

By the end of the year it was learned that Chinese travellers on coach tours who wouldn’t spend the £53 ($85.50) for an optional Chinese language tour of Winston Churchill's home, Blenheim Palace in Woodstock Oxfordshire were dropped off in Kidlington. It appears that the location was far enough away that the tourists could not walk to the palace and pay the entrance fee of £24.90 ($41).

Turns out that the tourism growth in Kidlington was not due to confusion, gullibility or whimsy but rather frugality.

Kind of reminds me of the tree falling in a forest.

If a village spends nothing on promoting tourism yet attracts hundreds of visitors a year who don’t spend money, is it really tourism if no one hears the sound of a cash register?

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Pam Stellini

Pam Stellini is an original. Her quirky outlook and wry humour defy categorization. Readers have compared her to Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald with a travel spin – and we're not about to argue. 

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