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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 09:06 GMT 10:06 UK
Resorts hope for more sunny times
Children playing on the beach
Sandcastles, ice cream and sun

Soaring temperatures in the south of England have brought a busy week for Britain's seaside resorts. But a few hot days don't make a summer.

For families planning a summer break in the UK, the worry is always the unpredictable nature of our weather.

Will they return home with a suntan...or will that much anticipated holiday prove to be a wash out?

But for two million Britons, there is much more at stake.

They all have jobs linked directly to tourism, and their livelihoods depend on persuading their countrymen to holiday at home, and at the same time enticing visitors from abroad.

Among businesses that rely on this seasonal trade are hotels and restaurants, theme parks and funfairs, amusement arcades and aquariums, zoos and steam railways.

Crystal balls

For the traders hiring out deck chairs and rowing boats, selling candy floss and saucy postcards, it is an uncertain time.

Donkey ride on beach
Jobs depend on keeping tourists happy
And after the past year, even the seaside fortune tellers must be peering anxiously into their crystal balls.

The foot-and-mouth epidemic had a serious impact on many parts of the country, particularly areas like the Lake District which rely on the income from tourism as much as farming.

Then after 11 September, a sharp decline in air travel saw a significant reduction in the number of overseas visitors coming to Britain.

But even without these exceptional factors, concern has been growing about how Britain can remain competitive the global tourist market.

The government has stressed the need to improve "the quality and range" of our tourist attractions.


Figures show that while the number of visits may have gone up in recent years, demand is now slowing.

Wake us up when it's time for tea...
The market for leisure activities has become more competitive.

And with the number of attractions increasing, some funded by lottery money, the fear is that supply may now outstrip demand.

The tourist trade is currently worth 73bn a year, and the way the industry performs has a real impact on the UK economy.

The number of jobs linked to tourism has increased by 12% over the past five years. Seven per cent of all people in employment in Britain now have jobs in this sector.

It is a diverse industry made up of 127,000 businesses, many of them small operations that rely on a good summer to see them through the rest of the year.

However, during the first three months of 2002, the number of overseas visitors to the UK fell by four per cent, compared with the same quarter last year.

And the amount overseas visitors spent here fell by 11 per cent.

But the drop was not as bad as the British Tourist Authority had feared, and it believes advertising campaigns in key markets abroad are starting to pay dividends.


A welcome bonus was the Queen's Golden Jubilee. The remarkable scenes in and around Buckingham Palace were beamed to a global television audience.

Children running into sea
Come on in, the water's lovely!

As a way of promoting British heritage, it was wonderful free publicity. It is hoped that a surge of late bookings will now give the industry a summer boost.

As part of the campaign, the government is now stressing the importance of "e-tourism" in converting interest into firm reservations.

Tessa Jowell, the minister responsible for tourism, believes that websites like EnglandNet are now an essential part of the marketing strategy.

"More and more people are planning and booking their holidays on the internet," she says.

"To stay competitive, English tourism must provide what the customer wants, and that includes real-time, quality-assured information, a co-ordinated point for that information, and the ability to book holidays online."

So with a mixture of PR and IT, those responsible for the British tourist trade are hoping for a good summer.

Of course, a little sunshine always helps...

This week Peter Gould will be visiting several British seaside towns and testing the summer temperatures.

Visit BBC News Online on Wednesday to read his first report on what the traditional resorts are doing to entertain holidaymakers this year.

At the seaside

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