The history of the seaside resorts in the UK goes back until 250 years ago. However, in that time such a recreation was a luxury only for the wealthy. Prince Regent and Queen Victoria had enjoyed the amenities in Brighton or Isle of Wight and Ramsgate (Wikipedia, 2010), under the pretext of health, social activity, coffee houses, gaming and theatre (Howard & Benn, 1998). Between 1850 and 1900, the Industrial Revolution and the improvement in transportation allowed less privileged classes to travel away from home.
Most holidays were railway day trips to the British seaside resorts (Barrow, 2010).
Along with the twentieth century, the developing of better and cheaper engine automobiles let UK seaside resorts experiment a brief boom up to or even after the Second World War (Walton, 2000). In 1974, more than 40 million took a British Break of four days or more (Brodie and Winter, 2007) Even in the 1990’s “at least half of all British holidays were still taken in seaside resorts” (John K. Walton, 2000, p. 3). In the same book, John K.
Walton explains, how resort life, both for residents and visitors, was a highly significant part of lived experience for much of the British population, making an important contribution to British Culture. However, a study carried out by Beatty, Fothergill and Wilson (2008), over the 37 largest seaside towns in England found that the employment rate in these towns is always below the English average. The Gross Valued Added per head and average earnings for both male and female in the sub-regions, containing seaside towns are substantially below the English average.
The share of adults of working age claiming the three main benefits for the non-employed are greater than the average (13. 2% compared to 11. 2% in England as a whole in May 2007). Furthermore, since 1997 this number has increased by 12% in seaside resorts while only 2. 2% in England as a whole (BBC News, 2007). Moreover, the level of deprivation in 26 of the 37 seaside towns is greater than the English average. The study concludes pointing out, that on average England’s principal seaside towns are rather more disadvantaged, than the rest of the country.
In addition, another study by Local Future Group (2010) in 2010 found, that seaside resorts such as Scarborough, Minehed in West Somerset and Great Yarmouth are within the bottom 20% of Local Authority District Ranked nationally in England with reference to: business enterprise, skills and qualifications, knowledge workers, labour market and prosperity. Others of the most well-established resorts, such as Southend on sea is at the bottom 20% regarding business enterprise and inequality, whereas Torbay fails in productivity, prosperity and affordability.
The surprise turns up when analyzing Blackpool, the leading British seaside resort during the twentieth century, reaching the amount of seventeen million visitors per year in the 1940’s (Wikipedia, 2010). The study found that Blackpool is within the 20% bottom in productivity, employment growth, industrial structure, business enterprise, skills and qualifications, labour market, knowledge workers, prosperity, health, crime and natural environment. Between 1999 to 2007 attractions such as Blackpool pleasure beach have dropped the number of visitors by 1. 5m (English Tourist Board, 2010). Thus, Blackpool is the 24th most deprived of 325 local authorities (BBC News, 2007). Likewise, 39m nights were lost at welsh seaside destinations from 1978 to 1988. (Welsh Tourist Board, 1989) Therefore, young people have no other alternative but to leave their towns to find jobs elsewhere. In contrast, the arrival of older people buying their homes for retirement put health and social services under pressure. (Daymail, 2007). Thus, seaside resorts are facing a spiral of decline.
How can such thriving resorts in the twentieth century be facing their decline in the current century? As many authors of the material are agreed, one of the main reasons is the increasing cheapness and more attractive climatic conditions, offered by the package holiday to the Mediterranean and beyond. Spain and France are the favourite destinations. From 2000 to 2007 the number of annual visitors to Spain from the UK had increased by 1. 1 million, reaching 13. 9m of visitors in 2007. Whereas 11. 2m went for a holiday to France in the same year. Office for National Statistics, 2008) In addtion, other eastern European countries have recently seen an increased in the number of visitors form the UK.
Between 2002 and 2006 the amount of visitors has risen 75% in Slovakia, 63% in Poland and 27% in Czech Republic. (Office for National Statistics) Australia and the U. S. A are other well known destinations for the British citizens. Others believe that the decline of the seaside resorts has also been due to changes in the entertainment element of the holiday product, as well as from domestic leisure activities such as theme parks. English Tourist Board, 1991). These resorts are no longer “spectacle” and “the extraordinary”. As John Urry said in 1998: “Resorts have not been able to maintain their distinctiveness as places where entertainment and pleasure in concentrated”. A century ago a British gentleman would spend the rest of his day enjoying the comfort of the assembly rooms, library and theatre. Nowadays, you would visit “a seafront dominated by fish and chip shops, gift shops and pubs”. (Allan Brodie and Gary Winter, 2007)
On the contrary, Britain’s night time economy is based exclusively around alcohol and it entails certain damages. As Alan Wood, chief executive of the clean beach campaigner said in 2004: “Resorts can resemble war zones rife with rubbish and soaked with sick and urine”. He believes that art galleries should open at night as well as pubs and clubs. Moreover, seaside resorts are sometimes only targeting one segment of the market, leaving aside the family package which is not compatible with the irritation caused at night by those looking for discos or pubs.
A study by Agarwal & Brunt (2004) concluded that seaside resorts are being too tourism centric and instead should adopt a more holistic approach, since “one size fit” is inappropriate. In a minor scale, DSS hostels harm seaside towns, as they find themselves poorly maintained being both unpleasant and dangerous living environments. (Woodcock, 2009). Many others, however, are pointing towards the Government as being the cause of this decline. It is quite shocking, the slow and low reaction from the Government against some of the statistics that are gathered in this article.
Do not deprivation, disproportionately high rise in the numbers claiming sickness and disability benefits in coastal towns, the number of young people with low level of education and prospects leaving their towns, poor housing or other issue such as coastal erosion, flooding or chaotic building construction deserve a better deal from the Government? As the Commons Communities and Local Government Committee said (Dailymail, 2007): “Government has neglected the needs of coastal towns for too long.
A greater understanding and appreciation is needed of the challenges faced in coastal towns” Committee chairman Phyllis Starkey said that neither actions have been taken nor strategies have been developed from the government to tackle the problem of coastal communities. “If the needs of coastal towns are to be met, then Government departments must develop an understanding of the particular issues facing these communities, and work together to address the broad range of shared challenges they face”, she said.
The Committee blamed the Government for the total lack of funding at National, Regional and Local levels in infrastructure. Perhaps, the worrying situation at the seaside resorts, plus the long list of problems encouraging their decline, has not a returning point; however, recent actions have been taken from the Government: an investment of ?5m has been pumped, which will be split between 25 towns suffering from deprivation including Portsmouth, Plymouth, Hasting, Barrow, Redcar and Great Yarmouth.
To create job, support business, improve skills of the long-term employed and improving local houses; the ”Sea Change Programme”, which has invested ?38m in seaside infrastructure over 32 areas, beyond 2011; a “Seasiding campaign” to use festivals to attract investors and strengthen local economies outside the traditional holiday season; and the “Strategy for Seaside Success, securing the future of Seaside economies”, this includes a commitment to work with Heritage Lottery Fund to restore iconic piers, which are of critical public value. Government office for the North West, 2010). The Government thinks that these programmes will be capable to recover the British seafront in forthcoming years.
John Yorke Denham, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, lately said in a visit to Hastings: “Places like St. Ives, Hastings and Scarborough are showing they can thrive once again through strong local leadership and dynamic business, no longer dependent on British weather, attracting new visitors all year round. There is no reason why our other seaside towns can’t flourish in the same way. Moreover, the current economical recession might play an important role in the recovery of the coastal towns, as British tourists rather choose a domestic holiday. Concluding this, it is clear that the consumer behaviour change from British society looking for warmer or more exotic destination, is directly affecting to the decline of the UK seaside resorts. The high level of deprivation of these areas results in being less attractive to visitors. The late reaction form the Government, the excessive boozing, the decrease in entertainment and sometimes, a misunderstood marketing have forced to the decline of coastal towns.
Regarding to TALC Model (Butler, 1980), every destination has its own tourist area life cycle which goes from exploration, through development and consolidation up to finally stagnation and decline. It is likely that seaside resorts are facing their final period and there is nothing that can be done. Seaside resorts have enjoyed 250 years of prosperity and it might be their inevitable decline stage. Phil Evans, Tourism Manager at greater London Authority shares this thought. He says that much earlier than the package holiday market explosion many resorts had suffered market failure.
Phil Evans thinks that the process of re-branding and changing perceived images of a destination is very complex and difficult. He also states that the holiday resorts “had their day”. However, I think that if the Government, District Councils, business owners, employees, citizens and anyone who might be concerned about the future of the seaside resorts would help all together, could restore the ancient glory and glamour which were once part of the life at the British seaside resorts.
To do so, a good first step would be to lead seaside resorts far from their current bind to alcohol. Owners should try to crack down on excessive boozing, and the violence that goes with it and pay an extra levy to clean up the mess left on the streets by their customers. (Allan Wood, 2004) In addition to the attempt of restoration from the Government, it needs to be supported as well from the local governments, which have to regain the significant role that they had in the prosperity, of the coastal towns uring the twentieth century. In that time, local governments spent heavily on promenades, parks, pavilions, sea defences, bathing and sport facilities to meet new visitor expectations. (Walton, 2000) Seaside resorts need to re-market themselves, and be able to offer some extra exotic incentive to recover their previous status. It is needed to boost a rejuvenation able to convert those day trippers in longer stays, as this sort of tourism is far more profitable. Seaside towns in Cornwall are becoming fame for their arts and heritage.
Brighton and Southport for their shopping; the north east coast is popular with surfers (Allan Wood, 2004), or Blackpool new attempt to regain the number of visitor through its new casino complex. Thus, coastal towns might overcome the lack of innovation and loss of media credibility over the last two generations to restore the fortunes of the seaside resorts. Otherwise, the effects of this market failure would be catastrophic, for the families bound to this business, and for the United Kingdom’s economy as a whole.
Cite this The Decline of the British Seaside Resorts
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