Coastal destinations and tourism businesses are calling for a sea-change - they want a stronger voice, to work more collaboratively, to draw attention to the coast’s valuable assets and, crucially, to alter perceptions among the public and the media of what there is to see and do on the coast.
Their views, along with findings from new and existing research, have been brought together to create the first Vision, Strategy and Action Plan for the development of tourism on the coast, coordinated by the National Coastal Tourism Academy (NCTA).
Last year, coastal tourism regained its position as the largest domestic overnight holiday sector, worth more than £8bn. And coastal tourism is a significant employer estimated to be worth £3.6bn, similar in size to the telecoms sector, but the coast has significant unrealised potential and faces stiff competition from city and rural breaks.
“Coastal communities face a number of unique challenges and to date they have not been given the attention and recognition they deserve,” says Samantha Richardson, NCTA director.
“By working together and with a concerted effort to raise awareness of the fascinating tourism product the English coast can offer, we believe economic growth on the coast – jobs and long term sustainable employment - can be achieved.
“Coastal tourism is a mixed picture across the country, with some coastal destinations thriving while others are achieving below average growth for tourism.
“The NCTA has spent three years examining the challenges on the coast – skills gaps, staff shortages, the problem of seasonality, public transport – as well as researching opportunities to develop tourism off-peak and we’ve identified key areas for growth that would work for the coast.
“But the time has come for a holistic approach and through this Vision coastal destinations can work together to tackle issues that affect all coastal communities and share learning of what works to benefit everyone.”
Last year the National Coastal Tourism Academy staged the first Coastal Tourism Forum where more than one hundred coastal destinations, tourism businesses and industry leaders discussed the need for a co-ordinated Vision and Action Plan. The new Vision is based on their recommendations and on the research of the NCTA, Bournemouth University, Sheffield Hallam University and others.
The Vision has four key objectives: to improve the visitor economy to support wider growth, to develop a quality experience with distinct activities, to foster greater collaborative working and to raise awareness of the coast’s offer.
The objectives are backed up by a robust action plan to be delivered by a working group comprising industry leaders, business owners and tourism experts.
The Vision is supported by a number of national tourism organisations, including the New Economics Foundation and the Seaside Heritage Network.
“We welcome and support the National Coastal Tourism Academy’s Vision and Action Plan for coastal tourism,” says Fernanda Balata, project lead for NEF’s Blue New Deal.
“We look forward to continuing to work with the NCTA and coastal communities to unleash the potential of the tourism sector to support more thriving coastal economies and a healthier marine environment. “
The Vision has also been endorsed by the Seaside Heritage Network’s Esther Graham: “The NCTA undertakes valuable research that supports all those working and promoting the coast.
“Seaside history and heritage is a vital element in the coastal offer and the Seaside Heritage Network looks forward to working with the NCTA and others in helping to shape a coordinated Vision for unlocking the unique potential of the coast, its landscape, communities and rich heritage”.