Thursday, September 27, 2007

Fake beach is a hit

A website which promotes a fictitious tourist beach in Cornwall is receiving thousands of hits after becoming a cult internet joke.

The hoax suggests Porthemmet offers warm seas, dolphins and a coral reef. But anyone following directions to the fake paradise is in for a shock - they would end up leaving the county.

Set up by Jonty Haywood, a teacher from Truro, a few months ago the website is being upgraded after getting more than 10,000 hits in a few hours on Thursday. (there is another site which shows the beach HERE)

"I'm currently trying to sort out the site overload," said Mr Haywood. "I definitely didn't anticipate such a response. My main aim...was to create a county-wide prank, something that Cornish people could amuse themselves with. The national publicity has kind of given away the joke to lots of people outside of Cornwall."

The website appears to be encouraging tourists to the non-existent destination of Porthemmet - "the largest beach in the county...designated a Site of Amazing Natural Beauty".

In this "unspoilt paradise", police officers never patrol the beach as "the local council decided that they distress elderly locals" and beach parties are often visited by some of Cornwall's most famous musicians. A sight-seeing ship takes people to a nearby puffin colony and shows off a coral reef.

The beach's name is derived from "emmet", a Cornish term for tourist and which actually means "ant".

Malcolm Bell, of South West Tourism, said: "I would have worried a few years ago when Cornish tourism was not as strong as it is. It is not overly insulting to Cornish people or visitors. It brings a smile to people's faces. It is stimulating people's interest in Cornwall. PR is good and this is PR."

A spokesperson for VisitCornwall said it was "good to have the spotlight turned on Cornwall and to remind people that this really is a stunning place to visit".

But she added: "We really don't want people thinking that Cornwall is hostile to tourists because that is not the case - Cornwall is known for its warmth and friendliness."

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