'Is this the end of the seaside resort?'

Issue date: 16 February 2006


Blackpool Tower The decline of British seaside resorts has, with few exceptions, been endemic since the late 1970s. This is illustrated by the growing number of purpose-built destinations that are no longer capable of attracting tourists in significant numbers, such as New Brighton in north-west England, Barry Island in south-east Wales and Severn Beach, here in the south-west of England.

Dr Tim Gale, a tourism researcher at the University of the West of England will present some of the reasons for this decline and what is being done about it at an open seminar on 22 February, hosted by UWE's Faculty of the Built Environment.

Dr Gale said “This decline is thanks in no small part to the sale of cheap package holidays to the Mediterranean and other so-called 'pleasure peripheries'. The proliferation of alternative places to visit in Britain such as post-industrial towns and cities, the countryside, theme parks and holiday villages has had a marked impact, too, as has the deteriorating quality and unsuitability of resort amenities and accommodations that were built for visitors of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, notably piers and holiday camps.

“Local authorities, often in conjunction with other public agencies and the private sector, have responded to these challenges by implementing a range of measures designed to rejuvenate the tourist trade. These include constructing wet-weather facilities, conference venues and heritage centres, conserving the historic built environment, and refurbishing accommodation to modern standards. However, such measures have met with limited success on the whole and an increasing number of resorts, or rather those with a stake in them, are now thinking the unthinkable: whether they should exit the tourism industry.”

Issues relating to the regeneration and sustainability of coastal tourism in the UK are to be explored in two presentations given as part of the 2005/06 Seminar Series of the Tourism, Leisure and Socio-Spatial Change Research Group, based in the School of Geography and Environmental Management, at UWE.

The first, by Dr Sheela Agarwal of the University of Plymouth, examines the impact of global processes of change on the competitiveness of seaside resorts in England, and the role and success of local governance and collective action in mediating and transforming these processes at the resort scale.

Dr Gale will then talk about the prospects for the British seaside resort in light of the apparent de-concentration of tourism in space and time, as demonstrated by the demand for independent and special-interest holidays in non-resort locations and the increase in short breaks outside of the main holiday season. He summarises, “The dissolving of 'tourism's specificity', whereby tourism is blurred with other forms of production, consumption and mobility and people are for the most part tourists, whether on the move or in their own backyard, has been referred to as 'the end of tourism'. Whilst this is not to be interpreted literally – tourism is, after all, said to be the World's biggest industry – it is possible to anticipate more literal endings in tourism, as is the case with those resorts in Britain that are facing an uncertain future.”

The presentations will take place on Wednesday, 22 February from 15.00 hours in 2R002 (R Block, Frenchay Campus). All are welcome to attend (please contact jane.newton@uwe.ac.uk for more information).

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