THE number of day trippers coming to Brighton and Hove has dropped by almost 1 million people in one year.

Figures obtained exclusively by The Argus show day visitor numbers dropped by 9% and the amount tourists spend also fall by more than £14.5 million in a year.

Brighton and City Council blamed the weather and insisted it was not concerned about the drop in day visitors.

But city business leaders and tourism experts blamed a tired tourism offering, lack of marketing and crowded beaches and called for the issue to be addressed urgently.

There are also concerns that the ongoing transport issues could make this year's visitor numbers even worse.

A report by the regional tourist board Tourism South East showed that in 2015 there were 9.1 million tourism day trips to the city - down from 10 million tourism day trips in 2014, a fall of nine per cent.

Visitors coming to the city in 2014 spent more than £850 million each year, but that figure was also down last year by 1.7 per cent compared to 2014 - a loss of more than £14.5 million to the economy.

Nick Mosley, director of the Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival, launched a scathing attack on the council.

He said there was "continuing concern" in amongst tourism and hospitality businesses in the city.

He added that "council tourism marketing appears in terminal decline" branded our civic spaces "shocking" and raised concerns that "no solution" was on the table causing "long-term reputational damage to the city".

He said: "There appears to be no sophisticated solution from the city council in terms of a sustainable tourism strategy, or at least certainly not one that has significant commercial financial backing and moral authority through the tourism and hospitality industries."

University of Brighton tourism lecturer Nigel Javis warned that younger visitors are no longer attracted to the seafront and "the tourism offer is just seen as stale".

He also warned that pictures of the crowded beach on hot days was also a barrier to day trippers.

New Brighton Pier owner Luke Johnson said he was surprised by the figures and stressed that the pier had a successful 2015 with revenue and the number of visitors both up.

Sarah Springford, director of Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, said she did not know enough about the drop in day visitors to comment but added that the number of people staying overnight had risen to partly offset the drop.

A spokesman for the council said: “In Dec 2015, Brighton and Hove was named one of the best tourist locations in the world by users of travel website TripAdvisor, and this is borne out by the rise in the number of people staying overnight and longer.

“This rise has also meant the amount of money coming into the city from tourism has remained the same as overnight stayers spend more than day trippers by using our hotels, restaurants and shopping facilities.

“On the other hand, day trippers tend to make a decision to visit somewhere on the day which can be hugely affected by the weather, and unfortunately last summer’s weather wasn’t as warm as usual.”


EVERY day for a year an average of 2,400 less fewer day trippers visited Brighton and Hove. The city’s bread and butter business of tourists spending a day at the seaside dropped more than 9% nine per cent yet no-one can put their finger on the exact cause.

If officials, traders and experts could point to one key reason it would make it easier to tackle the 900,000 drop in Brighton and Hove day visitors.

Reasons for a fallow 2015 compared with 2014 range from the weather to transport issues and a stronger pound luring people away on cheap package holidays.

And the lack of clear reason for the drop point to concerns the problems could continue this year.

Nigel Jarvis, who has been has been teaching tourism as a lecturer at the University of Brighton for 20 years, and pointed to another possible cause reflected in a separate National Trust report from 2015: that the seaside isn’t as popular any more.

Dr Jarvis told The Argus: “It could be that the tourism offer is just seen as stale.

“I think it’s a generational thing that the seaside appears to be waning in younger people.

“Obviously a lot of my students live here and come to love it. But first they don’t really know much about the seaside.

“It doesn’t appeal to them when there are so many other things for them to do, whether that’s going to a theme park or a day out in London, or even staying at home playing video games.

“We know that lots of coastal towns spent money regenerating themselves but it’s hard for them to get past the marketing clutter from overseas, showing hot beaches.”

Dr Jarvis also cited pricey public transport as an inhibitor: “People coming from London might see a day trip on the train as quite expensive. And the pound being strong could see oversees holidays as more desirable.”

The council blamed the weather – but if the weather and public transport drove away visitors in 2015 there are serious concerns this year’s figures could be even worse.

Seaford’s mayor Lindsay Freeman warned that the tourist information centre had hardly any inquiries during the peak summer period this year.

Alan Robins, who chairs the economic, development and culture committee on Brighton and Hove City Council, said: “I do know there are challenges and problems but we are doing really well.

“This drop in day visitor numbers isn’t significant – there are resorts near us who would kill for nine million visitors a year.”

Cllr Robins also hit back at notions that the city is generally a bit untidy. He said: “People say the streets are overflowing with rubbish but that’s because we have so many people coming here. We have put in these big bins now, with technology that tells us when they need to be emptied. I honestly don’t think people are put off because they find it dirty.”

Cllr Robins also defended seafront roadworks and said people “don’t come to Brighton because it’s easy to drive around”.

He said a warm day in Brighton and Hove can draw up to 80,000 visitors, leading to pictures of a heaving Brighton beach.

But the famed “hot beach shot” could be a double-edged sword.

Dr Jarvis said: “When Britain has a really hot day, the news shows crowded beaches and that can be a barrier because people see a crowded beach and think ‘Oh no, I don’t want to go there’.”

The Argus launched the Seafront 2020 campaign in April 2015. It was started to encourage debate about what can be done to safeguard the prosperity of our seaside communities.

Months later, the National Trust’s Coastal Connections Survey claimed the number of people going to the seaside was in long-term decline, with a fall by a third over a ten-year period.

The latest study by Tourism South East presents more finely balanced figures; overnight trips resulted in almost five million visitor nights spent in Brighton and Hove in 2015, up by 1.4 per cent compared with 2014.

Geoffrey Theobald, leader of the Conservatives on the city council, said: “The most important visitors are the ones who stay here overnight because they use restaurants and bars. Not every day visitor spends much money.”

He said that Brighton and Hove “does not really have a season” and that better leisure venues would increase the all-year-round offering.

Gavin Stewart, of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said the day visitor fall was across the board. “The economic impact of the tourism sector is worth around a fifth of the total economy of the city, and it’s the overnight staying visitors who create the lion’s share of that income.”


By Nick Mosley, director, Brighton & Hove Food and Drink Festival CIC

WHAT we’re seeing, from the 2015 figures, is the tail end of the impact on domestic and international tourism from the last recession.

And they are not reassuring numbers in terms of UK domestic visitors to the city, in light of the concerns of the tourism industry with pending hard Brexit and the decline in the value of sterling.

The overnight “staycation” market has grown, while the lower value day trippers are watching their wallets and very literally “holidaying at home” or else looking for better value, and perhaps somewhere more easily accessible in terms of transportation, destinations such as coastal resorts, city breaks, holiday parks, theme parks or similar.

Our overnight business – whether leisure or business tourism – is incredibly important as it delivers significantly more revenue to the city in terms of accommodation, restaurants, retail and the night-time economy.

However, any year-on-year decline in any key visitor demographic or consumer spend should be addressed with urgency as we cannot afford to take our eye off the ball in an increasingly competitive and sophisticated domestic tourism market.

One can’t help but wonder who steps up to that plate?

I think there is continuing concern, and definitely ongoing frustration, from the tourism and hospitality sectors in the city as to how we are collectively presenting the face of Brighton and Hove to the UK and our international markets.

Council tourism marketing appears in terminal decline, no doubt due to disenfranchisement and the shear inevitability that the public purse cannot support tourism at the expense of statutory services.

Despite welcome investments such as the British Airways i360 and Harbour Hotels – and no doubt shortly to be seen from the new owners of Brighton Palace Pier – our civic spaces, despite the best intentions of the city council, are shocking and no short-term solution appears to be on the table, which will result in long-term reputational damage to the city as many other seaside destinations have seen historically over the years.

The Tourism Advisory Board – set up a couple of years ago to find solutions to the ongoing marketing of the city, and subsequently dissolved – was a complete waste of everyone’s time and there appears to be no sophisticated solution from the city council in terms of a sustainable tourism strategy, or at least certainly not one that has significant commercial financial backing and moral authority through the tourism and hospitality industries.

As business people and employers, I know many of my tourism and hospitality colleagues are keen to deliver for the city. However, this needs to be a genuinely collaborative approach for the wider economic good of the city, rather than a bureaucratic fait accompli as we have seen so many times before.

If we want to retain our current position in terms of both domestic and in-bound tourism, day visitors and overnight visitors, then we have to work together and, after 10 years in food and tourism promotion, I still don’t see that happening with any consequence in the city.