Dalesman takes up tourism challenge on remote island

A businessman has traded his life in a Yorkshire village for an adventure on one of the world's most remote inhabited islands.

Mike Dean is heading to St Helena, 1,200 miles off the west coast of Africa, to embark on a new challenge.

The father-of-two has lived in Wigglesworth, near Settle, for 17 years but when opportunity knocked on his door to work as tourism development executive to the island, he could not resist the offer.

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Having left North Yorkshire earlier this month, Mr Dean flew to Cape Town before boarding the RMS St Helena several days later to sail for five days on one of the world's last working Royal Mail ships until he reaches the remote island.

Speaking from aboard the ship in the South Atlantic, he said: "I thought with all the background I have in travel and tourism, it would be ideal to use all the skills that I have built up to facilitate and support the community in St Helena in upping their tourism."

Mr Dean, 53, hopes to draw on his experience of living in a North Yorkshire village to help him to adapt to life on the island which is populated by around 4,000 people on its 47 square miles.

"My wife and I have been brought up in small villages," he said. "Some of the issues that exist on the island are similar to issues that face communities in the Dales. Young people have to move away in order to get jobs because there's nothing much locally.

"I was speaking to some people I know in the Forest of Bowland and in the Dales National Park because they have done things in terms of linking agriculture and local suppliers up and things like that. We can look at how that might work on St Helena."

The only access to the island, which is an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, is by sea, via the ship St Helena, or a number of cruise ships and yachts.

The focus for Mr Dean's new role will be on providing support in areas including tourism policy, institutional arrangements, tourism and marketing planning implementation, capacity building and training and destination management.

Mr Dean, whose broad knowledge and experience in tourism, has enabled him to hold various senior managerial positions with a number of well known travel groups, will take up his new role for two years initially.

St Helena was founded on May 21, 1502, and since then has been fought over among nations. It was famously the home of the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte for the last six years of his life.