Hotels have been enjoying an unexpected tourist boom as thousands of visitors flock to Sussex to lap up the prolonged summer sunshine.

Figures out today show how Brighton and Hove has revelled in a sudden rise in tourists while other popular destinations, such as London, have suffered a fall in visitors.

Despite the weather taking a turn for the worse yesterday, beaches, bars and hotels have been bursting at the seams during the past few weeks, a time when the city normally attracts less tourists as the summer season draws to a close.

Figures were also boosted last month as thousands were lured to the coast during some of the hottest days in Britain since records began.

The influx of visitors has brought a welcome boost to the retail and leisure economy as people soak up the sun while shopping and wining and dining.

The tourist boom has been shown by statistics examining the numbers of people staying in hotels in the city and how much they paid to stay there.

The figures reveal more people paid more money to stay in city hotels during August compared to the same period last year.

Record-breaking temperatures, combined with the war in Iraq and the Sars virus, are believed to have lured visitors to the city instead of travelling abroad.

Brighton and Hove's room yield, a figure based on the number of rooms booked and the money each visitor brings into a hotel, rose by 5.8 per cent - much higher than most other parts of Britain.

An increase in room prices indicates more demand for hotels in the city.

The average room yield for hotels outside London was just 0.1 per cent, with the capital seeing yields fall three per cent.

The statistics were compiled by Pannell Kerr Forster hotel consultancy service, one of the UK's leading firm's of accountants and business advisors, which highlighted Brighton and Hove as a summer success story.

City council head of tourism Adam Bates said: "This is good. The fact we have got more demand says a lot about the city because more visitors want to come here and are coming here. It also tells us we are attracting business visitors and what they do is pick up the gaps in demand that leisure visitors leave.

"Visitors to this city are prepared to pay a certain amount because of the entire experience."

The business community welcomed the findings and said they represented a boost to the local economy.

Mark Froud, chief executive of Sussex Enterprise, said: "I am not surprised by these figures.

"The information we received during the summer is that the Brighton and Hove economy is fairly robust.

"Many people who had concerns about Sars and the war in Iraq have opted to visit British seaside towns instead.

"These factors combined with the absolutely fantastic weather have meant more people visiting hotels."

A new breed of boutique hotels may also have tempted visitors to the city.

Among them is Hotel Du Vin in Ship Street, which opened in October last year.

Duty manager Laura Strizic said the hotel was at least 86 per cent full throughout the year, rising to about 93 per cent in July and August.

She said: "We have had a brilliant year all round but July and August have been particularly busy."

Hotels outside London saw average daily rates per occupied room drop from £57.67 to £57.56, with hotels in the capital seeing rates drop from £88.72 to £84.31.

Tuesday September 23, 2003