Significant improvements are needed to infrastructure in the West Country to ensure the region can make the most of the predicted post-Brexit tourist boom, according to a leading hotels specialist.
Peter Brunt, hotels director for the south west at commercial property specialist Colliers International, said: “Uncharacteristically good weather brought out the crowds earlier in the year – completely swamping the infrastructure at a number of chokepoints.
“Hotel and park owners and seaside traders made the most of the windfall when their visitors finally arrived, but the fact is many people had spent hours on traffic-clogged holiday routes and this is unacceptable given the vital role tourism will play in the post-Brexit economy.
“The transport network dwindles the further West you go, leaving many of our Premiership attractions at the end of distinctly Sunday league road and rail links.
“We need to encourage the visitors to keep coming back by expanding capacity on our networks.”
Peter said the long awaited dualling of the A30 at the notoriously slow Temple to Higher Carblake stretch of the A30 in Cornwall, which opened in the summer, will have helped smooth the 40,000 plus vehicle journeys made per day into the South West Peninsula at peak times including Bank Holidays.
Despite reservations over the transport network, West Country tourism had remained resilient - and Colliers International’s Bristol-based hotels team has enjoyed a bumper season of its own as buyers bank on a further increase in staycations next year.
“The hotels market has been incredibly active with an unusually high level of viewings,” he said.
“While a great many of the deals we signed off on were off-market, it’s clear buyers and investors are banking on the hospitality sector remaining buoyant into 2018 and beyond.”
He continued: “While domestic visitor numbers are always boosted by great weather - we have also seen a steady increase in foreign visitors attracted by advantageous interest rates and improved spending power. Fewer British tourists are travelling abroad due to correspondingly poor exchange rates and other factors.
“Visitor numbers are hitting record levels as more people decide to stay at home and see what the UK has got to offer – and a good proportion of them will be heading to our historic cities, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of course our perennially popular seaside resorts.
“Overseas visitor numbers are up 8 per cent to a staggering 23 million and when added to the legions of staycationers there are understandable concerns the region’s infrastructure simply won’t cope.”
VisitBritain reported 3.76m inbound visits to the UK in 2016 and forecast a further increase to almost 40m in 2017. Visitors are expected to spend £25.7 billion.
Peter Brunt went on: “UK hospitality has done particularly well on the back of the Brexit vote and plans are in place to ensure the sector performs at the highest possible level in order to secure the best possible return for the UK.
“For me, the Great British Staycation has never quite lived up to its billing largely due to indifferent summer weather in the UK. But the last Bank Holiday proved beyond doubt that the Staycation might finally be here to stay – so long as the infrastructure is there to whisk people to their destinations with the minimum delay.”