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My goodness! Toucan aims to top the bill; Dudley intends to bring in tourist trade with an unlikely mascot.

Or... Dudley may not have a toucan, but how about two cans?

By JOHN REVILL

For some it still has the image of a dark industrial wasteland.

Others may know it as the birthplace of luminaries such as comedian Lenny Henry, 'Busby Babe' and Manchester United legend the late Duncan Edwards, newsreader Sue Lawley and Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.

Not many would regard Dudley as a holiday hotspot.

That may change, though, with a pounds 50,000 drive to rebrand it as an attractive tourist destination, a move that has seen the adoption of an unlikely new motif for the borough - a toucan.

The as-yet unnamed bird is at the forefront of the Discover Dudley campaign launched by the Dudley Marketing Initiative.

And while the bird may not be native to the area - even Dudley Zoo does not have one - local officials believe it symbolises the character of Dudley.

'The bird is exciting and unusual and colourful, just like the town. The town is more colourful than people imagine. We are trying to get away from the image of a barren industrial area which many people have of Dudley,' said Ms Jayne Surman, marketing director for Dudley Marketing Initiative.

'We wanted to come up with something that showed the personality of Dudley. We thought about everything and eventually thought a toucan fitted the bill.

'We haven't got a name for it yet and are open to suggestions.'

As well as the toucan, another attraction to entice visitors may be the new cocktail created in one of the local hotels and called, appropriately, The Toucan.

The bird and the drink featured prominently in the Dudley display at the British Travel Trade Fair which has attracted 517 exhibitors and began at the National Exhibition Centre yesterday.

Dudley Marketing Initiative was set up by the borough council, the local Chamber of Commerce and the TEC to boost the image of the area which attracted 250,000 visitors last year.

The bird motif now dominates the cover of 200,000 Discover Dudley brochures which have been sent out to every household in the borough and tourist information offices across Britain.

'Even people who live in the area don't know what is on their doorstep,' said Ms Surman.

'We are not trying to take on the two-week holiday market but are marketing Dudley as an great place to spend a weekend.'

The new cocktail was created by Mr Kevin Brammeld, aged 22, a cocktail barman from Halesowen who works at the Copthorne Hotel at Brierley Hill. He mixed cranberry juice, pineapple, orange, lemonade, lime and cream.

There is also an alcoholic version - which has the added ingredients amaretto, Southern Comfort and Malibu - called Hidden Pleasure.

Mr Brammeld said: 'I just got bored one night and decided to mix them together. I liked the taste and it has been very popular with guests at the hotel.'

Miss Ylva French, spokeswoman for the trade show, which ends today, said more unlikely places like Dudley were trying to capture the tourist market.

She said: 'Because of the strong pound many people in Britain are going abroad. But many parts of the country are looking at attracting tourists for short stays and weekend visits.

'More and more foreign visitors are also coming to places like Dudley on their second or third visit to Britain because it is a bit off the beaten track.'

The toucan is found only in the western hemisphere in an area ranging from Mexico to Northern Argentina. Favourite foods are berries and other fruits but toucans also feed on spiders, lizards, snakes, and other young birds or eggs. A full-grown toco toucan is about 26in long and weighs about 1lb.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 23, 2000
Words:616
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