I was interested to read this week that hoteliers are calling for the Government to appoint a Seaside Tsar to help put some life back into the UK’s seaside holiday resorts. I became familiar with many of these towns in the 1970s when my parents took me on our annual holiday for a fortnight to the likes of Scarborough, Southport, Great Yarmouth and Lytham St Annes.
By the 1980s these towns were already in decline as people opted instead for cheap package holidays to the Med. If anything, the last three decades have accelerated the process. Many of these towns have struggled to find an alternative economic model and as a result have become increasingly depressing places. Those few jobs that are available are in the hospitality industry and tend to be seasonal, low skilled and low paid.
The story is not all doom and gloom. Some resorts, such as Southport, have become dormitory towns for nearby cities while a few others have followed Blackpool’s lead and targeted the seemingly inexhaustible stag night and hen weekend market. But for many of our seaside resorts the future looks bleak as many of them have a negative image and have become the butt of jokes.
Three years ago there was a lot of media coverage about the fact that a brewery had refused to allow a hotel in Skegness to have Peroni on draught as they considered the resort to be too down market for beer’s image.
It seems to me that one of the main tasks for the “seaside Tsar” will be to put together a PR campaign aimed at boosting the public perception of these towns. The first step may well be local civic pride campaigns to give these communities a sense of self respect and dignity. Before we can begin regenerating our seaside resorts, we first of all need to overcome our negativity about them.
The days of end of the pier shows and donkey rides on the beach may well be long gone, but these once great resorts can have a positive future if they can manage to create a more constructive image for themselves.