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Brexit could shake Shakespeare tourism

Press Association logoPress Association 30/12/2016 Richard Vernalls

This year's landmark 400th anniversary celebrations of Shakespeare's death saw visitor records tumble as the world's love affair with the Bard keeps growing.

An array of events drew huge numbers to the famous playwright's home-town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire in 2016.

Despite the focus falling on events in April, which saw a public parade and a memorable turn on stage by the Prince of Wales, tourists have continued to pour in all year.

According to tourism body Shakespeare's England, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) welcomed the highest number of visitors since reopening its riverside theatre in Stratford.

More than 620,000 people, excluding show-bookings, toured the theatre to hear more about the works of the man who penned Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.

However, industry insiders fear continuing uncertainty about Brexit could have an impact on the STG600 million ($A1.01 billion) Shakespeare tourism industry, given questions over the status of EU nationals working in the leisure, hospitality and tourism trade in the region.

It is thought that Shakespeare effect brings in 10 million visitors and supports 11,000 jobs, from hotel managers to coffee baristas.

"A change we might have is actually, in Coventry and Warwickshire, we have high rates of employment and a lot of that is within hospitality and the visitor economy and a lot come from Europe," said Helen Peters, chief executive of destination management body Shakespeare's England.

"If there's a situation where they're obliged to go home or voluntarily go home, that could cause a dilemma. There isn't the skill-set (in the UK) to fill those roles."

"We're not just talking about people employed in casual, seasonal roles, we're talking about general managers or people in marketing departments and chief executives," she added.

Peters said "2016 has been excellent", mainly due to the weakness of the pound, which meant it was a great time to visit the UK

In April, the Prince of Wales briefly became Prince of Denmark in Hamlet to utter the famous line: "To be or not to be", during a comedy sketch which witnessed performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, David Tennant, and Dame Judi Dench.

The reopening of Shakespeare's New Place in August, on the site of his final home, drew in nearly 50,000 visitors - while his old schoolroom also opened to the public this year.

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