Published: 12:30, 22 July 2014
Thanet lost 1,000 tourism jobs over six years - making it the second worst performing area in England and Wales, according to new research.
The number of people in employment in the seaside tourism sector fell dramatically in towns such as Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs, said a report published by Sheffield Hallam University.
Only Greater Blackpool performed worse than Thanet in the study covering the periods from 2006/08 to 2010/12, which largely showed a resurgence in the industry across the country.
The report also found that 400 fewer tourism jobs existed in Whitstable and Herne Bay over the same period, with Deal also down by the same number.
The Isle of Sheppey lost 200 tourism jobs over the period.
Only Folkestone and Hythe saw an increase over six years in Kent - up 400 - buoyed by arts events such as the Folkestone Triennial.
The research found in 2010/12, some 9% of jobs in Thanet were directly supported by tourism with 2,400 in retail, 1,300 in hotels and 100 in transport, a total of 3,800.
That was 6% in Folkestone and Hythe, a total of 2,100, 4% in Whitstable and Herne Bay totalling 900, 4% on Sheppey totalling 500 and 3% in Deal, amounting to 200 jobs.
It found 100 jobs in Dymchurch and St Marys were supported by tourism.
Peter Hampson, chief executive of British Destinations, which represents local authorities and tourist bodies, said: "The British seaside tourist industry has too often been written off as a relic of the past, and assumed to be on the same downward trajectory as so many other famous British industries.
"Our seaside resorts still face challenges in adapting to changing tastes and travel patterns, but with the right support from government this is an industry that should have a bright future as well as an illustrious past."
Tourism promotion group Visit Kent dismissed the figures, saying they do not take into account the impact of the Turner Contemporary in Margate.
Between April 2011 and April 2014, the gallery received 1.2m visitors, contributing £30m to the local economy and supporting 130 jobs.
Chief executive Sandra Matthews-Marsh said: “The university makes it clear that their figures are an estimate of the jobs lost, so there is plenty of room for statistical error.
“Their study looks at actual jobs and not full time equivalent (FTE) roles, so it is difficult to understand the type and value of jobs referred to.
“While there is no doubt that the recession had a substantial impact on the tourism industry in the county, all the statistics available to us show it is making a healthy recovery...” - Visit Kent's Sandra Matthews-Marsh
“Crucially, the Hallam report looks at seaside tourism and does not take into account other key markets, for example, language schools and visiting friends and relatives, which we consider important.”
Visit Kent’s own figures say from 2006 to 2011 actual tourism jobs across the county increased by 16% from 4,705 to 5,477, with FTE jobs up 12% from 3,440 to 3,876.
Mrs Matthews-Marsh added: “While there is no doubt that the recession had a substantial impact on the tourism industry in the county, all the statistics available to us show it is making a healthy recovery.”
The Hallam report estimates more than 200,000 jobs in England and Wales are directly supported by seaside tourism.
Professor Steve Fothergill, who co-authored the report with colleagues Tina Beatty and Tony Gore, said: “Over the last few years there has been plenty of media discussion about the rise of ‘staycations’ – holidays in Britain rather than abroad – but so far little hard evidence.
“Our figures show that so far the British seaside tourist industry has weathered the age of austerity very well indeed.
“The survival of a large seaside tourist industry should be good news, not just for most seaside towns but also for UK plc.”
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