The just released Tourism Hospitality and Visitor Economy study was produced by Hotel Solutions and Tourism South East.
The report outlines how Arun’s visitor economy appears to be rebounding from Covid, benefiting from the holiday boom and a leisure-oriented market that wants to be near the coast and in the countryside.
Clearly tourism is a key sector, with 2018 figures estimating four million visitors to the region.
These tourists bring with them £221 million in direct spending and support over 4,000 jobs.
Although day trippers make up the majority (3.4 million), they spend less than the 600,000 visitors staying in Arun.
The study identified a shortage of holiday accommodation, but also found “strong potential interest” from hoteliers and other providers.
Possible new accommodations could include eco-friendly glamping or campsites; a large holiday lodge like a second Butlin’s; or ‘super cottages’ for families or groups.
Councilors discussed the findings on Tuesday June 7 and agreed the council should “proactively” offer more tourist accommodation.
Planning policy committee chairman Ricky Bower (Con, East Preston) said the number of AirBnBs popping up in the district had formed a ‘key part of the economy’, but was quick to acknowledge that ‘we cannot create a Bournemouth out of something that is not’.
Speaking on Monday, council leader Shaun Gunner highlighted tourism as one of his top priorities.
He expressed disbelief that there were not more visitors to the area and said council initiatives such as the approval of new holiday accommodation in Arundel, the expenditure of £30,000 on marketers and the use of Leveling Up funding were part of the strategy to boost tourism.
Mr Gunner acknowledged that the lack of accommodation and ‘very few large hotels’ posed a problem for the biggest spenders – those who stayed overnight.
During Tuesday’s meeting, Roger Elkins (Con, Ferring) noted a “loss of hotels” in the past.
He welcomed more hoteliers but warned against further development in the countryside.
Isabel Thurston (Green, Barnham) said such developments could work “if done with sensitivity” and with good public transport links.