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Holiday hotspots such as Torbay 'shouldn't rely on tourism'

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 24, 2012

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The Westcountry economy's dependence on tourism has been laid bare as official figures show parts of the region employ more people in the sector than anywhere else in the UK.

Torbay in Devon topped the league table of regions boasting the highest number of jobs in the holiday industry as a proportion of the total workforce in 2011, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Some 16.7% of people work in tourism in the South Devon coastal resort, dubbed the "English Riviera".

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have the third highest proportion, with 14.9% of people working in the industry. By contrast, the figure was only 5.1% in Sandwell, West Midlands.

The region has long been a holiday hotspot, but many commentators fear tourism has become too dominant as traditional industries including mining, engineering and fishing have declined.

While the sector has shed some of its image for providing only low-paid, seasonal jobs, business leaders have been keen to encourage the growth of new and emerging industries – playing up the high-quality lifestyle the region offers. Torbay's aspiration to be a high-tech UK centre was dashed when Paignton-based electronics giant Nortel collapsed in the last decade, taking thousands of jobs with it.

Accountant Bishop Fleming recently warned Torbay should not rely solely on tourism against fears that elected mayor Gordon Oliver was not doing enough to attract other industries.

Torbay MP Adrian Sanders said: "They are all welcome jobs, but we need a more diverse economy if people are to earn the sort of sums of money they want to."

And while the Kingskerwell bypass road scheme, currently under construction, presented a "magnificent opportunity" for the economy, he added: "The mayor is on a single track tourism direction that will be regretted by generations to come."

In Cornwall, 2,500 engineering jobs have been forecast at an aerospace "hub" at the area's airport near Newquay – a stark contrast to vacancies in the nearby town, a British holiday Mecca.

Stephen Gilbert, Liberal Democrat MP for St Austell and Newquay, said: "It's clear that the tourist industry is a vital part of our local economy and a growing one too.

"The good news is that longer seasons and increasing professionalism means that local people can build a career in the industry.

"But we also have to ensure we continue to develop our other sectors, like manufacturing and agriculture, so that we have a balanced economy with opportunities for one and all."

Devon ranked 26th (10.6% of the workforce are employed in tourism), Dorset 36th (10.1%), Somerset 74th (8.6%), and Plymouth 124th (6.8%). London has the largest number of jobs related to the industry with 16.6% of all tourism-related employment in the UK.

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  • reiwruwiou  |  November 26 2012, 2:28PM

    Torbay has an ageing population, relatively speaking. Why? Many older people are retiring here, but also many younger people are leaving the area for better paid work (often with better prospects) elsewhere. While it is true to say that older people in general do actually help the local economy (just living here rather than visiting once every three months helps), it does put more of a strain on local services in some areas (e.g. the free bus pass situation, provision of care for older people, etc.) Spindleshanks make a fair point - if we could direct some older people into high quality purpose built accommodation it would free up houses for people living here (I think we could do a similar thing for people who want a "Holiday home" in the area too - old holiday camps could be redeveloped into luxury Holiday villages with maintained grounds for those who just want a place by the sea at the weekends). Howardd1 actually does make a valid point - pay in the area is around 10 years behind other parts of the country.

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  • Lloydus  |  November 26 2012, 10:37AM

    Does this article really compare Torbay - a coastal Devon borough, with Sandwell - an urban commuter borough just outside of Birmingham?! Is it hardly surprising Torbay employs more tourist related jobs than Sandwell? If it didn't I would be worried.

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  • howardd1  |  November 24 2012, 10:15PM

    a freind of mine a highly skilled wanted to come hear,he was offered a job by a well known engineer ing co ,here in the bay the salary they offered him was what he was getting 10 yrs ago , torbay is a joke ok if you are retired like me , and thats the problem full of old uns

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  • realityzone  |  November 24 2012, 5:47PM

    "Against fears" that the elected Mayor is not encouraging other industries. Who are we quoting? As I understand it the present Mayor is keen to encourage all job making opportunities for Torbay. But he and the rest of us have to recognise that, unless something quite extraordinary happens tourism will remain as the main industry and job creator and must be encouraged at every turn. The two aspirations are not mutually exclusive and I would be surprised if Gordon Oliver can be quoted as thinking that they are. I also agree with spindleshanks, many of the elderly have good disposable incomes and directly or indirectly employ many local people.

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  • spindleshanks  |  November 24 2012, 4:32PM

    Sorry Mike try this:- anchor.org.uk/Denham-Garden-Village

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  • spindleshanks  |  November 24 2012, 4:29PM

    Thanks Mike. Thought the following link may be of interest:- http://tinyurl.com/d8k969s This site used to be the Licensed Victuallers Garden Village until sold and was effectively a retirement village providing a complete range of services for those retiring from the pub trade, including its own nursing home and doctor surgery, daytime and evening function rooms and even its own village pub! Torbay could look at leading the way in the UK for the provision of this type of facility and we certainly wouldn't be short of potential customers either living here already looking to down size or those looking to move into the area. I really think there needs to be a hand holding exercise helping the elderly free themselves from properties that are driving them to an early grave with worry. Of course not everyone will want to leave their homes but I think there may be plenty who do who are simply frightened to ask for help or not know where to turn to. There is another issue - why shouldn't the elderly enjoy the money they have worked hard for during their lifetime by freeing up the capital tied up in their property whilst boosting the local economy in the process? Perhaps our council could find ways for the elderly to invest some of their freed capital in local affordable housing projects providing them with a sense of worth helping the younger generation whilst simultaneoulsy providing them with an income? The Bank of Torbay springs to mind. Would be great if the two ends of the housing market (i.e affordable and retirement) could be built on the same or adjoining town centre sites.

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  • mikelister66  |  November 24 2012, 2:38PM

    There is a wider issue that Torbay has an aged and ageing population compared to the average. There is an opportunity within Torbay to explore how these issues are dealt with and the potential to create knowledge in these areas that can be exported to other towns and cities in similar situations. It's an interesting point you raise spindleshanks. Admittedly not one I've discussed much with relations to the plans but something we have discussed at work. I like your idea of creating top notch complexes which could free up family homes and if the complexes were close to the shops it would benefit the elderly and the shops. I'm cautious that this looks like I'm suggesting we experiment on the elderly but for every 'problem' there is opportunity.

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  • spindleshanks  |  November 24 2012, 11:17AM

    Oh dear - statistics! The only surprise is that we have a tourism industry left in Torbay given the number of doom and gloom merchants running the place down. When are we going to wake up to the fact that our second largest industry must be the one relating to retirement and start upping the offer to individuals aspiring to retire to the area? I am amazed that the issue hasn't been discussed at length in either the Local or Neighbourhood Plans and that when they are discussed, the elderly are seen as something that drains life and finances from the area when in fact the opposite is true. I would suggest to our mayor and local MP that urgent attention needs to be given to the provision of superb retirement complexes that could free up large swathes of family homes in Torbay currently occupied by one individual of pensionable age struggling to cope on their own with in many cases, fast depleting funds . Consideration should be given to these retirement complexes being built in our town centres on brownfield sites with easy access to shops, etc. Thoughts anyone?

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