Seaside tourist towns face long-term economic damage, councils warn

Seaside resorts risk becoming permanent “ghost towns” as their economies are hit by reduced visitor numbers during the coronavirus pandemic, councils have warned.

Towns and villages heavily reliant on seasonal tourism are said to be facing an unprecedented challenge, as the public heeds government social distancing advice to stay indoors.

The District Councils’ Network (DCN), which represents many local authorities in England’s tourist and culture locations, is now calling for the Government to provide financial support to areas most at risk to help them eventually recover.

Barry Island
An empty beach in Barry Island, Wales, after social distancing measures were introduced (Ben Birchall/PA)

Mark Crane, DCN’s lead member for stronger economies, said: “Some of our finest, most picturesque and beautiful tourist villages and towns, including those rich in cultural importance and heritage, face an unprecedented challenge.

“These are places dependent on seasonal demand in order to survive, which are usually guaranteed large numbers of visitors week in week out, but this year this is sadly unlikely to be the case.

“With people rightly staying away to minimise the spread of infection, this could have a devastating impact on many places that rely on the tourism industry.”

The DCN said many tourist towns and villages would normally expect a large increase in footfall over the Easter period, but are instead anticipating “plummeting” visitor numbers.

It is calling on the Government to ensure councils are sufficiently funded so they can support local businesses and boost future high street funding for all towns.

The DCN said short-term “emergency intervention” could secure the future of seasonal businesses and save livelihoods.

Mr Crane added: “There’s a real risk that if they don’t recover, our tourist towns could become ghost towns. It will also put huge pressure on families suffering lost income and high unemployment.”

As part of efforts to halt the spread of Covid-19, the Government has urged people to avoid non-essential travel, which includes visits to second homes, campsites or caravan parks.

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