SEASIDE tourism in Brighton and Hove has defied the recession and grown at nearly triple the rate of its nearest rival.

Thousands of new jobs were created in the sector since 2008, bringing the total to 15,200 in the greater city region.

Indirect tourism jobs are estimated at 38,000 – around 25% of the working population.

The city has the second biggest seaside tourism sector in the country behind Blackpool, according to the study by Sheffield Hallam University.

But while Blackpool shed 3,200 jobs during recession, Brighton and Hove created 3,300. Elsewhere Eastbourne has 4,000 tourism jobs, Hastings and Bexhill have 3,200 and Greater Worthing 1,700.

Researchers describe the view of UK seaside tourism in terminal decline due to cheap air travel as “far from accurate”.

The report forecasts a viable long-term future for tourism “if handled appropriately”.

Tony Mernagh, executive director of Brighton and Hove’s economic partnership, said: “Most seaside towns have adapted to a completely different market – the short break or the day trip, or in the case of Brighton, the business tourist.

“Of the three, the business tourist is the most lucrative, followed by the short break.

“These have easily compensated for the loss of traditional bucket and spade holidays, and combined with a thriving night-time economy, Brighton is much in demand.

“Now we have to take the jobs in the hospitality sector and elevate them to at least living wage.”

Tourism Alliance chairwoman Soozie Campbell said: “Brighton has become the success it is because businesses have worked hard to build its reputation as a special place to visit.

“But we know from our own research that we need to do more to keep customers coming back.

“Only when we have more than 90% of visitors giving 5/5 for satisfaction on all amenities should we relax the pressure.”

General manager of award-winning Sealife Centre Max Leviston called for VAT breaks for tourism businesses.

He said: “It’s not as simple as opening our doors and people flocking to visit, we have had to work very hard for every single visitor.

“When is the government going to be brave and not selfish, because if they don’t reduce Tourism VAT soon, then I fear we will undo all of the great work achieved during recent challenging times.”