A seaside tsar is needed to help Britain’s deprived coastal towns fight back after years of underinvestment, according to a leading hospitality group.
The British Hospitality Association believe there is a “special, urgent and nationally important case” for targeted economic incentives and action to regenerate seaside towns, attract visitors and increase work and education opportunities for the eight million who live on the coast.
It comes as a survey by the BHA and Butlin’s shows the seaside is a turn-off for many, with nearly a third never having visited as an adult, and half finding it less appealing than other holiday destinations.
Just 23 per cent of the 1,074 people questioned would recommend a seaside break, with 65 per cent believing it “is very run down” and “needs investment”. A report by the BHA says multiple factors including the decline of fishing, people no longer taking a traditional seaside break and welfare claimants being “dumped” in cheap rented housing, have resulted in many coastal towns “having unhealthy local economies that lack dynamism”.
It also claims people on the coast are more likely to be poorly educated, unemployed and unemployable and lacking in ambition than their inland counterparts. It adds: “We do not believe that the UK Government and devolved administrations have sufficiently recognised the significant impact that the scale and nature of economic change had had on coastal communities and its cumulative effect on their life chances.”
It says its members are too often presented with jobseekers “who are not job ready, who lack basic social and self-management skills.”
The report, Creating Coastal Powerhouses, calls on the Government to create Coastal Enterprise Zones to encourage businesses to move to and invest in the coast.
It wants to see a seaside tsar to co-ordinate a coherent response across departments and spending; Coastal Action Groups to develop a co-ordinated response and investment strategy, a sliding scale in taxes to help small businesses and more apprenticeships for youngsters .
Bridlington Mayor, Cllr Liam Dealtry, said: “An umbrella organisation with one common goal would be brilliant.”
He disagreed with the “blinkered” view of the workforce and said public perceptions of the seaside, as revealed in the survey, had to catch up with reality.
He said: “There’s been a major turnaround, with the new (£25m) Leisure Centre, the new Spa and the revamp of Sewerby Hall.
“It has turned a corner but people still unfortunately look back to the old kiss-me-quick image. They think we haven’t evolved but we have.”
Guest house owner and vice president of the Bridlington Tourism Association Paul Cooper moved to the town in 2006 and wondered whether he had made the right choice as people converted guest houses to homes and the recession took hold.
“Now there are queues to get into the new Leisure Centre, a road-widening scheme is underway and a new Premier Inn has been approved. I think they are on the right track, slowly getting there,” he said.
Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the BHA said: “We look forward to the appointment of a Seaside Tsar. Our members, who invest in and operate hospitality and tourism businesses recognise the problems facing many coastal communities but we also know there are fantastic opportunities to boost these places and help revive the Great British Seaside holiday.”