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Hastings set for tourism boost this year

A recently published poll reveals that Hastings comes sixth in Britain as the town or city most likely to attract visitors this summer. Toby Sargent looks at the findings and discovers some surprising winners and losers among the runners and riders.

A survey published a few days ago lists the 50 places in Britain that holidaymakers from Britain – ‘Staycationers’ as they are known – are most likely to choose to visit this year. And Hastings comes in at Number 6, ahead of Blackpool in seventh place and nine rungs above Brighton who, according to the 10,000 people questioned, were only the 15th most likely tourist destination.

Spotlight around ‘that’ battle
Disappointingly, the survey does not carry data on what it is about our town that is attracting potential visitors, but the newly re-opened pier and the expected spotlight surrounding the 950th anniversary of that battle seem likely to have played a part.

The top five places in the poll, which was carried out by specialist finance brokers, Pegasus Marine, are Edinburgh in first place, followed by London, Bournemouth, Manchester and Whitby. And if Whitby, lovely though it undoubtedly is, does not perhaps strike you as the most obvious town to find in fifth place, there are other surprises too.

Scratching of heads in Stratford-upon-Avon
Inverness is in eighth place, while Stratford-upon-Avon can only manage ninth, a ranking that may infuriate those behind the mass marketing of Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary. Similarly, tourist officials in Cambridge (20th) and Oxford (27th) may well be scratching their heads at the presence of Watford (22nd) and Leeds (24th) lying between them.  But there’s no accounting for taste and, equally well, it doesn’t do to get too snooty about what is – and what is not – likely to be catnip for tourists when it comes to making what is, for many, a once-a-year choice.

Hastings Pier 4 web

But for all that, there’s no denying that the ‘staycationer’ is an important element in any town’s strategy to attract inward investment. And all the more so in the current economic climate.  According to data from Visit England, the public body whose job it is to promote England to the home market, the number of overseas holidays booked by Brits is 16 per cent lower than it was prior to the recession – while ‘staycations’ increased by 12 per cent between 2008 and 2013.

Friendly, fascinating and fun
And that’s good news for Hastings – and for me, as a newcomer to the town, it comes as no great surprise.  It’s friendly, fascinating and fun and that, again in my own personal experience, is by no means an alliterative holy trinity that can be applied to all seaside holiday destinations.

Jack in the Green

Hastings council are understandably pleased with the news.  Marketing manager Kevin Boorman told me: “We know Hastings is a really great place and it’s good that this is becoming recognised by our visitors too. We also have a fantastic events programme, as the Jack in the Green weekend has just shown us and, of course, new attractions such as The Source skateboard and BMX park and the reopened pier.”

Hastings holding its own

Domestic tourism – that’s people foregoing the pleasures of the airport and the ferry terminal in favour of the sort of holiday their parents or grandparents (delete where applicable) would have taken – is vital for Britain. Heaven knows, our heavy industries and manufacturing traditions are not what they were, so the service sector is key. And the fact that our town is holding its own, at least in terms of potential visitor intentions, is something to be pleased – and I think – optimistic about.

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Posted 15:29 Wednesday, May 11, 2016 In: Home Ground

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