Why go to the coast now?

New research from the National Coastal Tourism Academy has revealed the reasons why non-visitors forgo a trip to the English coast, which importantly uncovers a latent potential interest. But that interest will only be sparked if non-visitors are given a reason to visit now rather than go to other types of destination, opening up significant opportunities for economic growth in seaside towns.

The research, supported by the NCTA’s partner Hertz, surveyed more than 1,500 non-visitors revealing that a major challenge for coastal resorts is making sure a trip to the beach is front of mind; at present non-visitors feel ambivalent about a seaside escape.  To overcome this, the research suggests coastal destinations need to provide a compelling reason to visit; events, such as food and music festivals, tall ships regattas, air shows and carnivals, offer the perfect hook.

In addition, nearly half see the coast as closed in winter, other barriers mentioned were a preference for overseas destinations (34%) a fear it may be too expensive (22%) and a minority (9%) see it as too far to travel , despite the fact that no-one in England is more than 70 miles from the sea.

Those surveyed often associated the coast with traditional seaside resorts and once reminded about the breadth of coastal experiences that can be enjoyed, were open to visiting the English coast, with harbour towns and rural coast the most popular options.

The research also reveals that many non-staying visitors are actually going for a day trip; providing day-trippers with a reason to stay overnight therefore presents another key opportunity.

“The coast is an important part of the British culture, so it’s encouraging to see that even among those who haven’t visited the English coast in the past five years, there is an interest to come in the future.  The challenge now is to provide them with reasons to come sooner and stay overnight,” explains Academy director Samantha Richardson.

“We might not be able to change the vagaries of the British weather but promoting the enormous choice of activities and events staged year-round and different types of experience to be enjoyed off-season, rather than focusing on the sun-and-beach image that resonates with the public, might seem a bold step but could reap huge benefits and redress the “closed in winter” perception,” she said.

Richard Davies, General Manager, Hertz UK, added: “The coast is a fantastic natural asset for the UK, no matter what the season. We are very pleased that we are helping the coast reach its full potential by supporting the NCTA with this important work. With our extensive footprint of locations in coastal towns and cities across the UK, we see this new partnership as a logical fit and trust that, with the support of companies like Hertz, further coastal growth will be achieved.”

The new research also points out that the English coast is not homogenous and comprises a variety of destination types appealing to an equally diverse mix of people. To gain an understanding of which resort would appeal to which visitor profile, the survey presented respondents with six collages of images: Active Breaks, Coastal Retreats, Harbour Towns, Lively Towns, Port Cities and Traditional Seaside resorts.

Of these, the Coastal Retreats and Harbour Town categories were universally the most popular except for young families who opted for Traditional Seaside resorts.

“This new research will help different types of coastal resorts understand how their type of destination is perceived and who the markets are that could be persuaded to visit, given the right messaging. We now have an important practical resource for all coastal English destinations,” continued Ms Richardson.

“It would also be worth destinations considering how they could ‘package’ their destination with other types to bolster their appeal and generate overnight bookings.”

Read the full report HERE