In days long gone, the British beach was the summer destination for the majority of families, regardless of class. Beginning with the Victoria era, families travelled to the varied seaside towns up and down the country to spend a few days or more on their long golden sands, and enjoy the somewhat cool coastal waters of the surrounding seas.
But over the years these iconic holiday locations have adopted the appearance of run-down forgotten towns, abandoned by the visitors that once loved them so
In recent times, perhaps as the result of the current economic climate, holidays in the UK have seen resurgence, and there has been a sudden effort to modernise many of these infamous seaside towns and bring them swiftly into the 21st Century.
Take Blackpool for example. Long considered to be one of the party towns of the UK, and always a popular favourite with families and young adults, it sadly became known as a poor man’s Las Vegas, with cheap gambling halls, rickety fairground rides and lights that seemed to have lost their radiance. And the numbers proved it. In 2008 Blackpool lost an estimated 26% of its traditional numbers, trailing behind major inland cities and falling from the fourth place on VisitEngland’s top 10 most visited English towns and cities list to sixth place.
The bad news inspired a dramatic change in attitude, coupled with an influx of substantial financial investment to the area. French inspired advertisements, showing a couple enjoying the delights of a romantic, upmarket city with what could at first glance be mistaken for the Eiffel Tower in the background but is soon revealed to be Blackpool Tower, is intended to attract a new more upmarket clientele. So, can this famous seaside town live up to the chic upscale image the advert wants to promote?
Well, perhaps now that significant groundwork is underway, it can. The town has seen a number of recent changes, using celebrities such as Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen to open the first phase of the works, an ungraded and modernised adventure park that is considerably less tacky then the original amusements, and after all, isn’t that what the town is famous for?
The walkways have been restored, public works of art are on display, and even the lights have been revamped to create a visual display that extends into the town centre and encourages visitors to walk further than the seashore. And then there’s the Talbot Gateway, a £220 million project that aims to create a new business and cultural quarter at the northeast edge of the city. With work due to commence later this year, and with an estimated completion date of 2013, it won’t be long before this faded town is fully restored to its former heyday glory, with brand new retail facilities and upmarket eateries to attract visitors to the area.
Blackpool isn’t the only former British seaside resort under renovation as traditional towns try to attract the numbers once again.
Boscombe, on England’s south coast, also enjoyed a high profile in the early years. Located close to Bournemouth, Boscombe fed from the larger city’s tourist success, welcoming a spill over of tourists to its rapidly expanding visitor trade. Its initial triumph came from a number of outstanding architectural achievements, including some fabulous art deco buildings found in Christchurch Road and the exquisite Victorian era Royal Arcade. But as Bournemouth’s popularity dwindled, so did the numbers visiting Boscombe and with the failing tourism came 40 years of decline, bringing with it problems of anti-social behaviour, a drop in property prices and a lower life expectancy for its inhabitants.
A recent drive to improve the area resulted in the much acclaimed Spa Village Scheme, a step taken by the local council to regenerate the area and improve its popularity. Sinking more than £13.5 million into a new design concept, favourite visitor sites like the pier, the beach and the park were given a complete overhaul. It obviously had the desired effect. The Daily Echo reported a 32% increase in visitor numbers as a direct result of the total £50 million facelift.
Great Yarmouth was another famous seaside town initially propelled into the limelight in the 1750s, thanks to a book published by Dr Richard Russell proclaiming the benefits of sea water for the health. Newly built railroads in the 1800s transported huge numbers of tourists to the waterfront. By the 1970s it was reporting massive tourist numbers of 9 million a year, considerably more than many of its rival seaside locations.
As with most UK holiday destinations, the advent of cheap flights and the lure of warmer climes abroad signalled a decline in Great Yarmouth’s popularity, and in an effort to avoid a total loss of its tourist trade the town stepped up to revamp its image and bring its deserting visitors back.
Work began on the port, in tandem with neighbouring Lowestoft, attracting more trade and increasing the retail potential in the local area. The council worked on improving the cultural image of Great Yarmouth, while at the same time tackling the issues surrounding many of their social housing areas that were creating a negative image in the public eye.
A public appeal in the form a of YouTube advert created by the JMS Group, promotes the towns renewal in a 30 second ‘Come to Life’ trailer that depicts a clean, fresh and vibrant port town with plenty to offer its visitors. And the campaign must be working because Norfolk Council has reported a positive swell in numbers.
Whether or not these increases in visitor attendance are due to the heavy financial investments in these favourite old towns, or more to do with the current economic climate keeping holiday makers in the UK instead of heading abroad, is not clear. But what is certain is that thanks to the countrywide regeneration projects being carried out from coast to coast, Britain’s best loved seaside destinations have become exciting, attractive and financially lucrative places to visit once again.