A new tourism plan for Thanet will include proposals for a water sports hub on Ramsgate East Cliff with a mixed-use leisure development of food/drink and accommodation lodges or pods; a new, large scale event and improvements at Margate harbour.
The idea, revived by town councillor David Green, was first mooted in 2014 and suggests creating a club site with beach huts, water sports, rock-climbing and walking and biking trails, a café and a shop.
Also in Thanet council’s new five year tourism plan are ideas to identify a pilot site for combining essential public services -toilets, changing, showers, water, lifeguard station- with destination food and drink experiences and activities; a suggestion for mixed-use regeneration of land at Viking Bay and improvements at Margate harbour to include retail, dining and a fish market connected to Turner Contemporary, the town centre and beaches.
The plan document created by consultants Blue Sail says: “Despite improvements, growth and increased visitor satisfaction, Thanet’s visitor economy feels vulnerable. In common with many UK towns, especially on the coast, there is a down-at-heel feel to the town centres. The local authority has dwindling resources and competing pressures, despite some success in securing grants for certain activity.”
The aim is to create all-year attractions and encourage more staying visitors. Currently almost 90% of those coming to Thanet are day trippers and around 30% of visitors come in June, July and August.
The report says: “Staying visitors spend 7 times as much as day visitors and are much “kinder” to the local community and environment. For the visitor economy to be genuinely sustainable – good for industry, community and the environment – Thanet needs to attract more staying visitors, and more visitors outside the summer months.”
Tourism is worth £320 million per year to the local economy and supports, directly and indirectly 7,950 jobs.
Nearly one in five visitors are from London with a key market being in their 20s to early 40s.
Proposals to strengthen the isle’s tourism =include continued targeting of visitors from the capital with arts & crafts retail spaces and studios, pop-up galleries and exhibitions, artisan food and drink producers, street markets and events; upgrading existing B&Bs and supporting new serviced accommodation such as midrange hotels, lodge and camping pods and high-quality independent B&Bs, improve beach hut offers and identify a new and large-scale event which draws in large numbers of visitors and helps extend the season.
The report says making sure basics, such as toilets, parking, signage and wayfinding, are good and making the most of coastal assets and the natural environment are also vital.
The aim is for Thanet council to work with businesses and organisations to help create to new proposals, potentially using funding from the High Street Heritage Action Zone, and if bidding is successful, from Future High Street Fund for Ramsgate. Margate has been named as one of the Town Deal places possibly eligible for up to £25million.
The report says there should be three main themes of Vibrant Towns, Coastline Focus and The Isle of Thanet Promise.
It adds: “TDC needs to look at using assets in a different way if it wants income from them, and the visitor economy presents some opportunities to do that at specific coastal sites and with specific buildings. A new coastal project group should look at what other coastal towns have achieved in recent years and work to identify a key site or coastal “asset” (as a pilot) that could be developed to provide year-round activities and experiences, most likely incorporating a “destination” food and drink outlet, and including upgraded beach facilities (such as showers, lifeguard facilities and toilets).”
Council Cabinet members are expected to agree to adopting the plan at a ‘virtual’ meeting on April 23.