Research has highlighted how Covid has impacted the great British seaside holiday and how a growing trend for staycations in the face of foreign travel uncertainty could help it bounce back to its former glory.
The British seaside is regaining the glamorous allure that it had back in the 50s and 60s, and while it helped contribute to an estimated domestic tourism spend of £91.6bn in 2019, total tourism spend across coastal locations fell by -57% between 2019 and 2020.
The fall in popularity has also hit coastal towns, with the employment growth rate averaging just 0.2% per year between 2009 and 2018 . In larger seaside towns this has dropped to an average of -0.2%, and many traditional favourites have suffered even more, with Great Yarmouth (-11%), Folkestone (-12%), Torquay (-13%) and Weymouth (-18%) all seeing a steep decline.
However, while the pandemic has proved extremely problematic for the UK hospitality industry overall, one inadvertent silver lining could well be the revival of the great British seaside.
Previous research by hotel booking platform, hoo, found that restrictions around foreign travel have boosted the number of us opting for a British staycation by as much as 18%. With more of us opting to spend our hard-earned cash at the British seaside, this uplift has helped boost tourism spend in coastal areas by an estimated 42% since the start of the pandemic.
This bodes well for the likes of Great Yarmouth, the destination of choice for hoo’s latest campaign to champion the British seaside this summer, with the town ranking as the 8th most popular seaside town prior to the pandemic and enjoying the 7th largest level of holiday spend of all coastal destinations.
In the three years (2017-2019) prior to the arrival of Covid, an average of 464,000 per year visited Great Yarmouth, spending an average of £116m per year while they were there.
Hoo’s latest campaign, spearheaded by RuPaul’s Drag Race UK finalist, Ellie Diamond, is hoping to persuade British holiday makers that Great Yarmouth and other British seaside towns are more worthy of their Instagram attention than any foreign holiday destination.
Why? Well it’s clear we take our outstanding coastline for granted as around 10% of all international visitors from outside of the UK flock to the coast when they arrive. In fact, Great Yarmouth alone has seen international visitor levels climb by 24% per year on average between 2014 and 2019 before Covid struck.
So if it’s good enough for them, maybe the Brits will look again at what’s right on their doorstep.
Hoo Co-founder, Adrian Murdock, commented: “Like all areas of tourism and hospitality, the pandemic has brought incredibly tough times for local coastal communities who rely heavily on tourism in order to survive. But these traditional seaside resorts have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put themselves back on the holiday map.
The one saving grace of the pandemic has been the ban on foreign travel, forcing many to look to the UK coastline for their summer fix of sun, sea and sand. As a result, many of us have rediscovered just how great our coastal towns and cities are and we're at a crossroads now where the great British seaside really could reclaim an aspect of its former glory.
It doesn’t matter if you live in Dorset, Derby or Dundee, there will be a stretch of outstanding coastline that can offer you all the same draws of a holiday abroad, if not more, even with the unpredictability of a British summer.
So while foreign travel continues to cause chaos across the rest of the travel industry, we urge you to look again at places like Great Yarmouth, you may be very pleasantly surprised by what you find.”