A bucket and spade, the crunch in your sandwiches from the sand, having to lick your ice cream so it doesn’t drip all down your hand and narrowly missing out on that soft toy that you’ve paid over the odds for at the arcades. There is something quite unique about a trip to the seaside.
Or at least there was in the 60s and 70s when people flocked to the seaside like migratory birds for their annual holidays. Since then British seasides have become derelict, rundown and abandoned as holiday destinations. As people started going on cheap all-inclusive package holidays to Spain and other European destinations where the sun was guaranteed for less than the cost of a visit the seaside.
In recent years however seaside towns around the coastline have started a renaissance to silence the critics and attract people to their shores once more.
Since 2010 tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK and by 2025 is estimated to be worth over £257 billion, and while these stats include London seaside towns are once again a major pull factor for tourists.
In terms of visitors taking holiday trips in 2014 there was an increase of 7% on the same period in 2013. Figures for overseas visitors show that the number of visitors to the UK has gone up 33% from figures recorded in 2003.
We look at five seaside resorts that are regenerating, redeveloping and beating the criticism to become seaside towns worth picking up your bucket and spade again.
In the 50s and 60s thousands of people travelled to Margate every summer rain or shine looking for fun in the sun on the golden sands.
The package holiday boom in the 70s and 80s hit the town harder than most though. Dreamland shut, The Scenic Railway, was burnt down and Westwood Cross an out of town shopping centre left the high-street empty.
After years of instability there is little surprise that the town dubbed as ‘the original seaside resort’ is finding its’ feet again but in a new sophisticated, Instagram-friendly identity. This began with the opening of The Turner Contemporary Art Gallery in 2011 which has attracted over 2 million people to the area and contributed £41 million into the local economy.
Sir Roger Gale MP of North Thanet said: “It had a massive transformational effect. It had a huge gentrifying effect on the old town which had gone downhill. There’s not a shop available in the old town now. Margate high street is filling up again with little boutiques, restaurants.”
The total economic impact of tourism in Thanet was £245 million in 2013 – an increase of 6.5 per cent on 2011. In the same time period the total number of visitors rose by 7.3 per cent to almost 3.36 million.
Margate’s second major step forward came in October 2015 when Dreamland reopened following the rebuilding of the Scenic Railway. The early indications of its reopening are positive and 16,000 people visited the weekend before Christmas.
Recent regeneration led to Margate having the largest rise in property prices outside London in 2015 at 26%. For a more in-depth look at Margate’s recent regeneration why not watch our video.
Morecambe was a popular holiday destination before the 1970s for people from Yorkshire and Scotland due to its stunning views, close proximity to the Lake District and traditional seaside experience.
Like all other seaside towns Morecambe saw a huge decline at the end of the 70’s because of package holidays but it got worse in 1986 following the collapse of the pier and in 1990 annual visitor numbers hit all-time low of 1.3 million.
Paul Rogers – Senior Regeneration Officer for Lancaster City Council said: “A lot of other seaside resorts managed to keep a critical mass of seaside attractions. If you go somewhere like Skegness it still has a critical mass of attractions. We lost it all, we were left with nothing.”
Similarly to Margate, Morecambe is reinventing itself in a new identity beginning in 2008 with the reopening of the art deco Midland Hotel. With the hotel came wealthier visitors, willing to pay higher prices for a cup of tea and a cake, small boutiques, B&Bs, cafes, and galleries.
As a result the visitor economy is now worth over £260 million to the district, supporting over 4,500 jobs, with more than 4.6 million visits a year to the main visitor destinations of Morecambe, Lancaster.
A new marketing campaign showcasing Morecambe Bay has also attracted visitor but also private investors, who have planned regeneration for The Arndale shopping centre and the former Frontierland site.
The area is also set to benefit from a new road link to the M6 making access much easier. Regeneration has been slow but the town once again becoming a destination worth visiting.
While Morecambe hit rock bottom in 1990 Weymouth was something of a late developer and hit its peak offering donkey rides, Punch and Judy – everything you could want from traditional quiet seaside holiday.
Due to Weymouth’s late peak the task now is more one of development than of regeneration and this has been achieved by attracting two major events to the area, helping to hugely increase publicity.
The first of these was the Olympics in 2012 and whilst the anticipated visitors did not materialise in 2012 Matt Ryan – Head of Tourism and Leisure for Weymouth and West Dorset Matt said: “Because of the imagery that went around the world we have seen an uplift in international visitors that have wanted to come to Weymouth to see what they saw in that 2012 period.”
It is reported Olympics related schemes helped pump £177 million of funding into the Weymouth area for facilities, regeneration and transport projects.
ITV’s hit television series Broadchurch followed, and while filmed along the Jurassic Coast; which is another huge attraction, in nearby West Bay, it has brought huge amounts of people to the area wanting to see the imagery they saw on TV. Matt Ryan tells us more about the Broadchurch affect and what the area did to make the most of it.
As a result total visitor related spend has increased by 37%, £59 million, between 2011 and 2014 and there was also a 40% rise in the number of people making day trips to the area.
Seaside towns in Cornwall such as Falmouth have always been a favourite for people looking to enjoy a “staycation” and relax in a cottage by the sea.
Falmouth offers that quiet retreat but also tourism haven with Pendennis Castle, the third largest natural harbour in the world, the National Maritime Museum, boat cruises and five beaches as attractions.
But even it has not been exempt from struggles through the years. At the end of the millennium Falmouth was a town in decline struggling to compete with out of town stores and nearby towns such as Penzance and Truro which continued to thrive.
Fortunately Falmouth was awarded money due to its heritage status to regenerate the town centre and some surrounding areas. With £30 million awarded to build the National Maritime Museum.
A big turning point for Falmouth however has been Falmouth University which was granted complete university status in 2012. A study by Oxford Economics, confirms that Falmouth University and the University of Exeter, who share Penryn Campus, have contributed £491 million to the economy of Cornwall between 2002 and 2012.
John Pollard, Leader of Cornwall Council said: “The vision was to transform our higher education and research facilities at the Penryn Campus into a world-class asset for the region. Anyone who visits the Campus today will experience the energy and innovation which buzzes through it as private and public sectors work together.”
Llandudno ‘The Queen of Welsh resorts’ reached number three on Trip Advisor for best places to visit in the UK in 2015.
Llandudno serves as a reminder of just how good the seaside can be. Like all seaside towns Llandudno experienced a dip at the end of the 1970s and the 1980s, but its recovery has been remarkable.
George Brookes Destination Manager at Conwy County Council said: “The perception is that seaside resorts are on the wane and they’re dying on their feet, and sadly some are but we’ve always worked very hard here to try and prevent that.”
Llandudno’s rise on Trip Advisor comes after huge amounts of restoration and maintenance to the Georgian and Victorian buildings along the seafront as well as to the pier, the longest in Wales at 2,295 feet.
Llandudno also worked hard to ensure it had as many visitor attractions as possible to bring people to the area. In addition to the pier, seafront and two bays there is the Great Orme, with great walks, stunning scenery and a copper mine. A dry tobogganing slop, an Alice in Wonderland trail around the town which has a good selection of shops, cafes and restaurants. The town’s close proximity to Snowdonia also attracts visitors so there is little surprise the town is doing as well as it is.
As a result trips to Llandudno rose by 15.5% between 2011 and 2013 and a total of nearly 300,000 people visited per year on average.