HENLEY WILL become a ‘quintessentially English must-see town’ in the next few years, according to The Henley Partnership.
The organisation used its annual general meeting held at Henley Rugby Club on Thursday to discuss new ideas to boost tourism.
Julie Perigo, chair of the business and retail section of the partnership, outlined ideas for the forthcoming year, including a Henley loyalty card, special offers for members, a spring food festival and breakfast meetings.
She explained how far the partnership had come in the last year since the revival of all three groups, and said she hoped the 93 members would continue to pull together.
Ms Perigo said: “I think we are in such a strong position, it is the first time in four years that we have a very supportive town council and district council, a great chairman and a town centre manager.
“I would like The Henley Young Partnership to grow as it is a link to our local school, college and youth club with the business and organisational expertise which a town like Henley can offer.
“This is not the two-week, nine-to-five work experiences, but what we can provide is people who would not mind running the odd workshop under business and tourism themes and local business people who can give a mini-work experience project, say on a couple of evenings in a week or at a weekend.
“It is going to be sustainable if it is useful to the business and will capture the students as well.
“That is something that over the next year we will be growing with the help of Henley College, Gillotts, Be There Henley, Nomad and Henley Youth Club.” Ms Perigo admitted that lessons had been learnt from the last year, including advertising at Henley Royal Regatta in July.
She said: “Next year we will have more materials and a better line about how we can promote our town and businesses during that period, with a view to getting people to return to the town.”
Gillian Nahum, owner of Boatique and Henley Sales and Charter, said: “The regatta is one of the many things that happen in this town. I think that it was a good initiative to try to do something there but people come mostly for the day.
“People are buying the regatta merchandise, they are not walking around with bags in their hands from town.
“But with the Rewind Festival people were constantly coming in to town and they were spending money and loving Henley as well as enjoying the festival.”
Councillor David Nimmo Smith suggested that the location of the marquee was moved, adding: “About 15 years ago the district council had a similar event but the marquee was by the regatta shop at the end of the site rather than lower down the site.
“I think perhaps it has to be rethought.”
Ms Perigo replied: “That was one of the lessons we learned, as well as getting young people together who know Henley well.”
Ms Nahum also suggested that more retailers should get involved with the partnership.
Seven people were thanked for their work for the partnership during the past year.
Henley’s town centre manager Peter McConnell was named most committed newcomer, while Guy Outram, of Go Consultancy, was presented with the business workshops award.
The website award, presented by Stuart Mullins of the Head Partnership, went to Chris Wellings of CTC Aspire.
Angela Pengilley, Marian Rasbridge and Sarah Price shared the Henley Young Partnership award.
Ms Perigo was presented with an award for the biggest new idea by Sam Riley, head of advertising at the Standard.
Ms Perigo said: “You may think it is 24 nights of performances to raise money for charity but it is a lot more than that.
“It is about getting businesses talking to one another, getting churches coming together, and getting 48 businesses to be venues and hosts.
“We hope it will promote tourism as it is involving the arts, business and charities.”