When Joe Biden breathes the Atlantic air next week as he walks the steps of Air Force One on his first foreign trip as US president, he will become the last visitor to the jagged peninsula at the southwestern tip of the British mainland. Already full: Cornwall.
This corner of the UK hardly needs more publicity. It was already one of the UK’s most popular domestic holiday destinations, and ongoing pandemic restrictions on overseas travel have ensured that hotels and restaurants are packed.
The arrival of Biden and other foreign leaders for the G7 summit, which begins next Friday at a boutique hotel in Carbis Bay, will only cement the region’s reputation as a premium destination.
A granite wedge jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, a Celtic allure built on myth and legend. The G7 will add another layer to Corniche folklore as world leaders gather to try to solve the world’s problems.
Anecdotes are already circulating about how Biden’s entourage will have to replace the Bist’s armored limousine with a “little monster,” better suited to Cornwall’s narrow, twisting lanes.
Local police are concerned that aggressive seagulls in the area could damage the drones that provide surveillance for the massive security operation.
Cornwall provides a background in microcosm for some of the major themes that will dominate the summit.
Climate change: The province enjoys geothermal energy. Future Industries: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson The province was called “Klondike Lithium”. Inequality: There are plenty of examples of poverty in Cornwall and it is one of the target areas in Johnson’s post-Brexit agenda.
The G7 summit will highlight the disconnect between the kind of people who stay in the Carbis Bay Hotel – the multimillion-pound homes that straddle the stunning Corniche coastline – and those who live elsewhere in one of the poorest parts of Britain.
Locals, who often work in low-paying hospitality jobs and face exorbitant housing costs, have little hope that a short visit from Biden and other world leaders will do much to change their fate.
A 10-mile drive from Carbis Bay, on Pengegon Estate in Camborne – officially one of the most disadvantaged boroughs in England – residents were unimpressed by the arrival of the G7 Diplomatic Circus. They have complained that world leaders are able to fly to Cornwall in a pandemic, yet have not been able to see their loved ones for several months.
“They are famous people. There seems to be a rule for them and another for us,” said Heidi Chesterfield, one of the caregivers. And her friend, Anna Frances, doubts the boycott will reap long-term benefits from hosting the summit. “Cornwall is the end of the line — we’re always forgotten.”
Downing Street attempted to embrace this embarrassing convergence of wealth and poverty. Johnson will claim that the G7’s agenda for green growth and new technology will specifically benefit remote areas like Cornwall, with its aspirations as a leader in renewable energy, green tourism and even space – the county owns plans To build the UK’s first spaceport.
But some are skeptical. Resentment toward the EU’s far-elite is exemplified in Cornwall’s pro-Brexit vote in 2016 with traditional frustration with wealthy expats, who have raised home prices and turned real estate into vacation homes.
Billy Tomkinson, a 21-year-old singer-songwriter from St Ives, wrote a song inspired by the nearby G7 summit. She says Blood Red highlights her anger over the event. It’s supposed to be for sustainable development but the leaders are being flown by plane and helicopter to a hotel where the trees have been removed to accommodate them all.
“It’s like Joni Mitchell – they made heaven,” she said. “There are people coming who can change the world with the stroke of a pen, but what are they doing to help us? One mile from Carbis Bay, one in three children is born into poverty.”
At the harbor in nearby St Ives, 70-year-old John Harry, who was born and raised in the city, points across the waterfront. “This place is full by 11 am. St Ives is not closed anymore. It’s like 12 months out of the year.”
A local coffee shop dismisses visitors, informing them to reserve the next available lunch on July 28. In some of the tourist hotspots, says Linda Taylor, the Conservative leader in Cornwall Council, “the rat couldn’t find a small bed”; She urged visitors to explore the lesser known areas of the province.
Malcolm Bell, head of Visit Cornwall Tourism, notes that his industry accounts for £2 billion in sales a year, 12 per cent of the county’s GDP and a fifth of jobs. Most locals see tourism as an economic necessity, he says: “It’s like saying the doctors would have done better if it weren’t for all the patients.”
Londoners began making Cornwall their primary residence, working from home and possibly keeping an apartment in the capital. Homes are converted to Airbnb rentals. The county, once seen as a traditional ‘bucket and shovel’ family destination, has moved to a high-end.
Bell suggested that the opening of the Tate outpost in St. Ives in 1993 was a catalyst. David Cameron, the former prime minister, vacationed in Rock on the North Coast—a village dripping in summer with money and chic surfing—and across the county’s hotels and updated holiday parks. “We’ve become a premium product,” Bell said.
Johnson is well aware that the G7 is not universally popular in Cornwall. Businesses have been forced to close, the Carbis Bay hotel is still a construction site, and Biden’s security team has left nothing to chance about road closures.
But the UK prime minister has promised to invest in the province and leave the legacy of the summit. Taylor said it’s critical that this helps residents in places like Pengegon, not just places the G7 leaders have visited: “We have to make sure that legacy spreads throughout Cornwall.”