With the value of the pound much lower than it was before the vote on 23 June, ‘Brexit’ could well be the best thing to happen to Britain’s seaside for decades.
Tourism is vital to the health of our seaside towns. For many years however they have suffered as the price of overseas holidays has become more affordable – both as a result of cheaper international travel and the relative strength of the pound against other currencies. In the wake of Brexit and with the newly volatile pound (at the time of writing £1 buys 1.223 US dollars or 1.124 euros) many Brits will be considering taking a seaside ‘staycation’ for their next break.
There is evidence that ‘staycations’ were already on the rise prior to the vote. Domestic visitors spent more in England last year than ever before, spending £19.6bn on overnight trips. It is safe to assume that this trend will continue, and most likely pick up pace.
A weak pound has also made visiting Britain much more attractive to overseas tourists. Official statistics show that overseas residents made 3.8 million visits to the UK this July (up two per cent from last year) and spent £2.5 billion (four per cent more than last year). UK hotels have also reported an increase in tourist spending since the vote.
Butlins’ Managing Director, Dermot King, has recognised that in these circumstances Brexit represents a major opportunity to revitalise the economies of seaside towns. Mr King argued that the most important factor behind the Leave vote was that the economy was not working for everyone. According to Mr King, that feeling “is exaggerated more in seaside towns than anywhere else” as a result of decades of under-investment.
Mr King argued that Government action to reduce VAT on tourism would provide a significant boost to Britain’s competitiveness, saying, “the fact of the matter is we’re three-times more expensive than Germany and twice as expensive as France when it comes to VAT.”
If Theresa May is to deliver ‘a country that works for everyone’, she needs to seize this opportunity to help our left behind seaside towns.