IAN HART: Can we still attract tourists to Worthing?
Regular readers will know that one of my big bugbears regarding Worthing has been the gradual loss of the town's traditional '˜seaside resort-ness'.
Back in 1997, while working for an entertainment magazine, I interviewed Jim Davidson, who was appearing in a summer season along the coast at Bournemouth.
During our conversation, he touched on his childhood and his regular family holidays to Worthing in the early 1960s.
He also stated that with the right ambition, Worthing could have been an equal to Bournemouth as a resort.
As I’ve previously said, we probably missed the boat when not adding a conference centre to the original Aquarena complex in 1968, when we had the relevant hotel bed space to have become a legitimate conference venue.
But maybe technology and the changing trends of the 21st century could see an upturn in the prospects of Worthing as a destination?
Earlier in the week I was talking to a mate about his impending retirement from full-time work, and his intention to concentrate on a couple of properties he rents out in the town.
He told me about a website he’d registered with, Airbnb, which is effectively a private, short-term letting service. He’d put his seafront flat on the site a month or so ago and now it’s booked up every weekend between now and the middle of November.
When I went on the said site on Tuesday morning I was amazed to see that there are more than 300 potential lets in Worthing.
The bottom line is that, as my friend pointed out, if you provide somewhere decent for people to stay – via one of our existing high-quality hotels, established B&Bs or the aforementioned Airbnb option – people will still visit Worthing, giving the local economy the all-important shot in the arm.
Sadly, a far cry from the 30-odd hotels and 70-plus established bed-and-breakfasts of the 1960s and ‘70s, but still very much a positive.
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