The recession has seen a tourism boom in Brighton and Hove, new figures reveal.
The city is bucking the trend of seaside decline, recording a massive rise in holidaymakers despite the gloomy economic climate.
Brighton and Hove saw an 11% increase in overnight visitors between 2007 and 2011 – sending the number of tourists past the million mark.
This brought an extra £25 million to the economy and created an extra 2,500 tourist jobs.
The council said although no official visitor figures were available yet for 2012, early indications pointed to numbers levelling off but not falling.
Tourism bosses attributed the success of the city’s tourism sector through the recession to a strong programme of events and festivals, successful marketing of the destination, the rise of the staycation and the strength of the Euro which made the UK an attractive location for European travellers.
However, hoteliers warned the city’s tourism industry was struggling after a “disastrous” summer thanks to the Olympics, and business leaders warned that 2013 might not get any easier.
The report, published by Travelodge, using official statistics, today names Brighton and Hove as the UK’s sixth fastest-growing destination ahead of London and seaside rivals Blackpool, Torquay and Newquay which had all seen visitor numbers decline.
Adam Bates, head of city’s tourism body Visit Brighton, said the city can develop a high level of tourist income the whole year through and move away from the traditional summer high and winter off-season.
Hoteliers, however, said the outlook was far from positive, with poor summer months because of the Olympics and wet weather leaving hotels without a war chest to survive the quiet winter months.
Mark Jones, of Brighton and Hove Hotels Association, said: “The recession has been anything but positive.
“Rates have plummeted and hoteliers have needed to cut their costs to plan for the future, almost as a matter of survival for smaller businesses.”
Nick Head, of the Sussex Tourism Partnership and the Ambassador Hotel, said that at a Brighton and Hove Hotels Association meeting at the end of 2012, hotel owners were reporting drops in visitor numbers through the summer of up to 30%.
Tony Mernagh, executive director at Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said the tourism industry had a bigger impact on the city than merely creating jobs in that industry.
Art and culture
He said: “It supports the cultural and artistic offer of the city which the domestic residents couldn’t sustain alone and that artistic offer makes Brighton an attractive place to start a business.”
Mr Mernagh said the city’s retail sector had also suffered last year and 2013 might not be any better with people adjusting their expectations to lower disposable incomes.
However, as incomes diminished, Mr Mernagh said tourists were becoming more discerning which favoured Brighton and Hove’s broad range of tourist attractions.
Geoffrey Bowden, the chairman of the council’s economic development and culture committee, said without official ONS figures for 2012 it was dangerous to draw any conclusions about last year on just anecdotal evidence.
He added: “It is always good to hear that our city is a popular tourist destination and the latest available data relating to 2011 certainly confirms this.”
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