The evaluation of the impact of tourism on the economic development of modern Britain represents one of the most important aspects of the modern economic history and geography. Furthermore, it may be placed within the interdisciplinary perspective that aims to combine social, political, economic, and cultural issues within the singular research subject that would enable the comprehensive elaboration of the linkages between the economy and the rest of societal life’s spheres.
The purpose of this chapter is to present a concise yet conclusive review of the literature relating to the growth of Brighton’s tourist industry within the last decades, the recent directions in the development of Brighton’s seaside resort complex, and the political regulation of the financial flows generated by the city’s burgeoning tourist industry. To this end, an all-out account of both major primary sources (i.e. governmental and local authorities’ rules and regulations, policy guidelines and programs for the facilitation of tourist activities in Brighton, etc.) and the secondary studies by the leading researchers in the field shall be considered. A comprehensive research perspective arising therefore could be used both by the current research and the future studies in this field to conceptualize Brighton’s tourist complex within the UK’s overall tourist and recreation industry, as well as to conceive of the key trends in the city’s tourism-driven economic development.
To attain these goals, this chapter will be divided into three sections, to be supplemented with Introduction and Conclusion parts. Section 1 shall deal with the main trends in British tourist sector after the 1980s and their relevance for Brighton. In Section 2, the main emphasis shall be placed on the role of Government’s and local authorities’ regulations and policy efforts in bolstering (or impeding) the development of Brighton as a major tourist centre. Finally, Section 3 would present an account of main factors conducive of the city’s rapid tourist success, as well as of the probable future business trends and their impact thereon.
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The UK’s tourist industry development and the role of Brighton
The economic situation of the bulk of the British tourist industry in the moment may be best characterized as contradictory, with the adverse trends impacting on the sector’s capacity to compete with its Asian and Mediterranean rivals. While the picture of widespread decline of the Southwest and Northwest England’s seaside resorts may be a rhetorical exaggeration (Beatty et al 2010), one may still assert that the blow dealt to many minor resorts by the 1975-1985 shift from domestic to overseas tourism has not been ameliorated by the increasing concentration of the value-generating tourist facilities in just 8 main towns of the seaside (Morgan & Pritchard 1999). Thus, the review of the professional literature approaches as to the relative decline of the traditional British tourism is warranted for the purposes of this research.
The issue of the decline of Britain’s traditional seaside resorts has become a notable subject in the relevant professional literature. For instance, Agarwal (1999) puts a significant emphasis on the ongoing trends of decline which is, in the researcher’s opinion, observable with respect to the previously famed British coastal tourist attractions. Having focused on such notable seaside towns as Torbay, Weymouth and Portland, Agarwal (1999) reached a conclusion that the regenerative programs instigated by the local authorities actually did little to reverse the decline brought about by the lack of competitive edge over the overseas competitors.
Likewise, Urry (2002) focuses on the alleged loss of the sense of the “extraordinary” (2002, p.84), which used to animate the British seaside towns and turn public attention to their potential as resorts; however, with the growth in prestige of the supposedly more exotic resorts, the traditional British seaside towns have lost their previous veneer. As Urry (2002) makes ample use of the ‘tourist gaze’ meta-cognitive concept that accords the greatest significance to the production of the new cultural codes that would be starkly different from the commonplace, his interpretation of the decline of the British seaside resorts would be put down to the lack of the exotic and quixotic specificity that is so typical for the prestigious resorts of nowadays. The more post-modernist and philosophical conclusions drawn by Urry (2002) may be supplemented by the more business-oriented interpretation of the same phenomenon by Morgan & Pritchard (1999). These authors maintain that the comparative lack of successful branding strategy in the case of Wales made its resorts less popular among the public, while Australia actually benefitted from the successful branding strategy. Thus, the lack of appropriate branding and PR patterns has allegedly contributed to the industry’s decline in prominence.
The other approach to the reasons for British seaside tourism’s lack of momentum was supplied by Agarwal (2007). In her study of the impact of institutional factors upon the Southwest English coastal resorts, this author concludes that the influence of global economic factors and forces upon the English seaside resorts has not been as all-encompassing as it used to be thought (Agarwal, 2007, p.57). On the contrary, the development of the locally oriented production complexes and regulatory forms may have a considerable influence on the seaside resorts’ development. However, one should be mindful of the fact that an advent of the globalization led to the transition from local government to the local management regulatory framework, which has become increasingly associated with the more comprehensive approach to such issues as production networking, business regulation, and industry leadership (Fuller et al 2004).
Nevertheless, as demonstrated by Agarwal & Brunt (2006), the excessive reliance on the uniform picture of the economic prosperity and development brought about by the greater regional autonomy in solving the problems of British tourist industry. The development of the English Regional Development Agency, with its focus on the public-private partnerships in tourist industry development, did not lead to the establishment of the red tape-free working environment, as the growth in the new local authorities’ departments connected with the subregional business trust and partnership systems led to the proliferation of complex bureaucratic institutions (Roberts & Benneworth 2001). In fact, the division of the development oversight tasks between several similar bodies (i.e. Britain’s eight Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) gave rise to the newer complications, connected with the need for integration of their institutional efforts, which may pose some serious challenges to the regionally oriented tourism development strategy.
Still, as it was demonstrated by Beatty et al (2010), the key trends in Britain’s tourism industry appear to be underpinned by the growth in both operating income figures and the employment rates. While the latter change appears to be distributed unevenly across the nation, with Southwest England benefitting the most from the employment growth, it may still be estimated that between the late 1990s and early 2000s, an overall increase in seaside tourism employment in both England and Wales would seem to amount to almost 20,000, with the average annual growth rate of almost 1 percent (Beatty et al 2010, p.56). Similarly, as of 2008, the total employment in the seaside tourism industry in England and Wales averaged at 210,000, making this sector one of the most important job providers nationwide (Beatty et al 2010, p.58). The results of the United Kingdom Tourism Survey (2005) showed that the UK residents were still interested in the tourist attractions of the Southwest England, as 40 percent out of 20.5 million short trips taken by the British citizens to the region in 2005 had tourist recreation as their principal goal (United Kingdom Tourism Survey 2005). Thus the potential for the tourist sector growth in the region cannot be arbitrarily discarded.
The city of Brighton, or more precisely, Greater Brighton, boasted a population of 284,300 in 2007, making it the second largest seaside tourism-oriented metropolitan area after Greater Bournemouth (nearly 335,500 residents; Beatty et al 2010, p.24). Almost 12,000 jobs in this city were to this or another extent dependent upon the city’s tourist industry, with seaside conference industry being the city’s other landmark trade (Beatty et al 2010, p.39). In total, though, it has been estimated that Greater Brighton’s seaside tourism and tourism-related industries accounted for about 31 percent of the city’s total employment in 2008 (Beatty et al 2010, p.43). In addition, Brighton is characterized by the proliferation of the culturally oriented attractions, with the number of previously abandoned shops and other commercial buildings being turned into artistic galleries and other loci of the potential cultural tourism activities (Rickey & Houghton 2009, p.53). As it was noted by the aforementioned researchers, the introduction and development of the culture-oriented tourism may have contributed to saving Brighton from the relative decline experienced by the other traditional seaside tourist sites, such as Margot (Rickey & Houghton 2009).
As early as the late 1990s, Shaw & Williams (1997), on comparing Britain’s seven larger seaside resort towns with their lesser peers, predicted that Brighton may play the prominent role in the future development of the new, culture-based tourism strategy. The cultural attractions of Brighton are manifold, as the city used to be the centre of the British aristocracy’s social life since at least the early 18th century, when Brighton obtained its royal charter and became the major centre of aristocracy-oriented water-bathing industry (Lencek & Bosker 1998; Walton 2000). Since 1839, Brighton has been one of the favourite resorts of the British upper classes, and as such, the number of prominent buildings has been retained as attractions of these times. With such memorable monuments and cultural buildings as Theatre Royale, Brighton has been regarded as the future centre of the culture-based tourism (Richards 2001), and, as it may be understood from the present development trends, this prediction may have come to bear fruit. Furthermore, Brighton’s legacy of the seaside English culture dating back to pre-industrial era was naturally connected with the particular cultural identity that might be used for the purposes of constructing the tourist-attractive images of the city and its culture (Palmer 1999).
As described by VisitBrighton.com (2012), the city’s renaissance in the 2000s was indeed assisted by the proliferation of cultural and artistic-oriented establishments and recreation places, with theatres joining restaurants and musicals in attracting the newest generation of the visitors. Such cultural festivals and undertakings as the Brighton Festival Fringe and the Brighton Pride (the latter oriented toward LGBTQ visitors of the city) have been considered important in Brighton’s cultural rejuvenation (VisitBrighton.com 2012). Using the landmark example of the Lewes District, itself situated in less than 0.5 hour of car riding from Brighton, it may be asserted that the combination of the hospitable host community and the visitor-oriented local cultural attractions have restored Brighton to the “tourist gaze” philosophized on by Urry (2002).
According to the data presented by Tourism South East Research Unit (2008), despite the significant economic downturn brought about by that year’s crisis, the number of tourists attending Brighton and the total volume of capital generated by the latter’s visit did not experience the significant slump that might have been the case otherwise. According to the estimates, in 2008, 6.7 million tourism day trips were made to Brighton, which represented a 1.7 percent decrease in comparison with the fiscal year of 2007. However, the conclusions on Brighton’s vulnerability to the Great Recession may be misleading, as the total expenditure volume by the city’s visitors that year actually increased by 12%, having reached the landmark of %u20A4449,364,000 (Tourism South East Research Unit 2008, p.4). The final data for both visitor expenditures benefitting local businesses and authorities were even more spectacular, with total value of tourism-related business activities in Greater Brighton (Brighton & Hove) estimated at %u20A4938,739,000. In particular, the local businesses’ demand for local supplies, brought about by the influx of the tourist visitors, reached the level of %u20A4256,919,000 in 2008, reflecting the deeply running connection between the tourism-oriented sectors of Brighton’s economy and the local production at large (Tourism South East Research Unit 2008, pp.4-6).
Brighton as a Tourist Centre: The Legislative and Regulatory Framework
The culture-oriented tourism growth strategy employed by the city of Brighton in the 1990s to 2000s has been supported by the range of both nationwide and local-level legislation and regulatory framework the intelligent use whereof enable the city’s authorities to overcome the challenges the other major seaside tourism centres have had to face as well. Thus, a short overview of the UK and Brighton authorities’ recent legislative developments may be warranted, in order to better understand the socio-political factors having an impact on the city’s tourist success.
As it was observed by Forsyth (1997), a sizable sector of the UK tourist sector, comprising mainly the small- and medium-size tourist firms, has become effectively beyond the effect of the Government’s regulatory framework. Instead, the self-regulatory patterns have come into force, with tourist firms operating in such environments as national parks and similar tourist attraction sites adhering to the environmental regulation norms apparently at their own initiative (Dewhurst & Thomas 2003). Such remarkable case of the self-regulatory tourist businesses may have been the case in Brighton as well. With the prevalence of medium-size businesses (with no more than 50 employees at each business), Brighton tourism and hospitality industry is generally reliant on local supplies to satisfy the needs of its tourist clients. Thus, the more locally oriented and environment-friendly strategies implemented by the city’s vendors and hospitality institutions have had a strongly positive impact upon the tourists’ perception of the city.
The role of the local authorities in facilitating the growth of tourism in Brighton cannot be underestimated either. Already in 2004 Brighton implemented its first ever Tourism Management Strategy, aimed at the acquiring greater share of the tourist market in Southwest England (Brighton & Hove City Council 2004). At the same time, it soon became apparent that the lack of the focus on the specificity of Brighton’s message for the would-be tourists had made the city’s tourism strategy less competitive than it was wished for. Thus, in 2008, the new Tourist Management Strategy upgrade was implemented by the local council, with a view to the more resolute focus on Brighton’s historical legacy and current uniqueness of its tourist destinations (Bates 2008).
The 2008 Tourism Management Strategy has emphasized the connection between the natural and historical attractions Brighton has to offer its visitors. Building on the results of Travelmole’s (2006) research, the Strategy’s authors concluded that the introduction of comprehensive business events and business-oriented tourist proceedings would benefit the growing numbers of business tourists that came to frequent Brighton’s attractions (Brighton & Hove Council 2008, p.7). Building on this conclusion, the Tourist Management Strategy has been centred on the city’s legacy architecture and premium-level accommodation as the main strengths of the city. As the continuing popularity of Brighton’s resorts demonstrate, this decision has proved instrumental in cementing the city’s reputation as the centre of boutique and visitor-friendly hospitality services.
Tourist Industry’s Future Trends and Challenges Ahead
As the results of the observations conducted by Euromonitor (2012) demonstrate, the UK tourist sector remained largely resilient in 2011, in spite of the adverse impact of the lagging consumer spending and the punishing effects of the government spending cuts on the leisure patterns of the populace. The growth in VAT rates, as well as the unfavourable UK pound exchange rate to the U.S. dollar, has contributed to decline of the nation’s purchasing power, which in turn has its impact upon the tourism’s attractiveness (British Tourist Authority 2001). Thus, these issues would be an important area of concern for Brighton’s businesses and local authorities.
At the same time, the infrastructural projects initiated by the VisitBritain (2011), which were aimed at the infrastructure upgrade of the transportation and communication systems in the tourist-oriented cities and areas may become an important part of the city’s tourism management strategy, as the former’s positive effects may become more tangible. In this way, Brighton’s superb architectural and hospitality infrastructure may be supplemented by the equally high-profile transportation and communication maintenance structures, thus lending the city an additional competitive advantage.
The data presented in the aforementioned literature review allows one to make several conclusions as to Brighton’s potential as the British tourist industry centre, with the respective implications for the UK tourist sector in general.
- Brighton represents an example of the cultural tourism-oriented metropolitan area that has overcome the limitations inherent in the previous, ‘sand and sea’, model of the Southwest English seaside tourism that has been invalidated by the disqualification of this latter’s model by the growth of cheap and efficient Mediterranean tourism model. Through the use of the innovative, symbolic identity-based tourist management strategy, it has become possible to increase Brighton’s attractiveness for the new generation of the UK tourists.
- Simultaneously, Brighton’s tourist success have not been connected with the city’s or national policy makers’ interventions into the market processes, as the self-regulatory model of the UK’s small and medium-size tourist businesses demonstrate. On the contrary, the development of Brighton’s tourist market ‘miracle’ may be considered one of the rare examples of generally unregulated market share growth, which was validated by the introduction of the 2008 Tourist Management Strategy merely post factum.
The example of Brighton’s tourist success may be replicated by the rest of Southwest English seaside cities, given the proper self-representation strategy. In particular, the historical legacy factor may play its role here.
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