The main part of the Cambridge punting season is drawing to a close now, and it may soon be possible to walk around the city centre without being accosted by people offering punt tours. Cambridge people love to complain about punt touts; you can even get a t-shirt bearing the message “No, I don’t want to go punting today”. But how much of an impact do the touts really have on residents and visitors? Visit Cambridge, the City Council’s tourism website, conducted a survey in July to find out. They asked 94 visitors and 65 locals about their experiences. Here’s what they found.
Firstly, how many times were people approached by punt touts?
A fairly impressive 36% of visitors were approached four or more times. Visitors were approached more often than locals, perhaps because the touts tend to concentrate on them more, or possibly because locals have become better at dodging out of the way.
How did people react to being approached?
The visitors were remarkably tolerant, considering the number of approaches they received. Locals were less so, with over half of them responding negatively.
Most approaches were either by the river or on Kings Parade:
People were also asked if the experience of being approached affected their perception of Cambridge. For most people, it didn’t, but again, locals were less happy than visitors.
So on the basis of this survey, punt touts probably aren’t having a particularly negative effect on visitors to Cambridge, but they do manage to annoy some local residents.
Update: City Councillors are to debate this issue at the council meeting on 20 October.