Suffolk/Essex: How did our seaside towns weather the recession - and produce more jobs?
- Credit: Archant � 2007
Seaside towns in Suffolk and Essex have “weathered the economic storm” according to a new report which reveals encouraging growth in tourism related jobs over the recession.
Southwold, Aldeburgh, Lowestoft and Clacton are all strong performers in the Seaside Towns in the Age of Austerity report, helping dispel myths about the tourism industry’s “terminal decline”.
The report indicates that the number of people working in tourism across 121 coastal resorts has increased from 207,000 in 2008 to 212,000 between 2010 and 2012, making the industry a larger employer than the motor industry, aerospace or pharmaceuticals.
In Southwold the growth was particularly pronounced, with tourism related jobs rising by a quarter from 600 in 2008 to 800 in 2010/12 and accounting for 56% of all employment in the town.
John Perkins, chairman of the Southwold and Reydon Society, has attributed the growth on the rise of “staycations” - a factor also credited in the reported.
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“I think a lot of people have discovered Southwold for the first time and, finding it to be a very attractive place, have returned time after time,” he said. “Tourism is a huge source of wealth and prosperity in this town and I’m not at all surprised to hear these sorts of figures. I think it’s pleasing because a lot of the people employed in these jobs are the young people who have been hit hardest by the recession on other areas.”
Southwold mayor Ann Betts agreed the town had “weathered the storm” while her predecessor Simon Tobin highlighted the hard work that had helped achieve its success.
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“I think Southwold Town Council, in conjunction with the Chamber of Trade, My Southwold and a number of other organisations have worked very closely to preserve the character and ambience of the town, which is regarded as one of the most iconic and unspoilt seaside resorts in Britain,” he said.
Lowestoft also enjoyed significant growth, sustaining 500 more tourism jobs than the 1,200 recorded in 2008, while Aldeburgh was able to retain 900 positions, which accounts for half of all employment in the town.
Aldeburgh Business Association chairman Rob Mabey said the town was “starting to get back on top” after the recession.
“We’re over the worst of it and we seem to be heading towards another peak,” he said.
Mr Mabey said there had been a “revolutionary change” in the abundance of holiday accommodation over recent years, which had made the resort more accessible to “normal” visitors and not just the wealthy second homeowners.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey said the report demonstrated the county’s “resilient economy” and paid credit to the retailers and town teams “who are trying to stretch their season”.
In Clacton the growth was also strong, rising from 1,900 to 2,100 across the period. Frinton and Walton also managed to maintain 800 tourism jobs, which accounts for nearly a fifth of all employment in the region.
Mike Page, leader of Tendring District Council, said tourism is a “vital” part of the district’s economy - bringing in around £350m a year.
“Many of our seaside traders have invested in their businesses in recent years, looking at different attractions to bring in the visitors and their efforts have been supported by the council,” he said.
“We have worked together to survive the recession and we are now looking forward to a renaissance of our seaside areas – especially in Clacton and Holland where we have a new £36m coastal defence scheme underway, which will lead to regeneration opportunities and the creation of new jobs.”
While the report, produced by Sheffield Hallam University, says the seaside tourist industry has weathered the economic downturn “relatively well” it points to “locational shifts” between areas that have fared worse than others.
Felixstowe saw the number of people employed in tourism decline by 100 to 1,000 over the period, though the town’s mayor Graham Newman said there was still much to celebrate.
“There has been quite a lot of recent interest from national retailers and these brands would not be coming here if they did not think there was a future,” he said.
“We’ve got a lot of successes but there are still a lot of things I would like to see happen.”