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Words: Glynis Fox
Photography: Mick Fox
Featured in the May 2015 issue

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There’s a real buzz in the air along the coast, as Skegness and its close coastal neighbours gear up for the busiest months of the year.

Everyone from hoteliers to shopkeepers, and even the donkeys on the beach, seem to be in an upbeat mood now that the traditional season is underway.

The first signs of rising visitor numbers were spotted earlier in the year, when caravan owners took the first available opportunity to rush and reopen their vans after the winter break.

The pace has been picking up ever since and the outlook for this popular resort and others nearby continues to look brilliant, following a great Easter.

And this year there is plenty to tempt both locals and visitors alike to the seaside. New investments and attractions are shaping up – bringing the added cheer of more job opportunities.

Safe beaches, award-winning donkey rides, amusement arcades, Skegness’s Embassy Swimming Pool and Fairy Dell – the outside paddling pool – the Pleasure Beach, Tower Cinema, great live shows at The Embassy Theatre and the Natureland seal sanctuary, are all waiting to be enjoyed.

Skegness also has plenty to satisfy if you fancy a spot of retail therapy. A vibrant mix of national and independent businesses caters for all ages and, of course, there’s no shortage of places to eat or buy an irresistible fish and chips takeaway.

Resort businesses always offer a friendly welcome, ensuring visitors are drawn back to the east coast time and time again. Now they are exploring ways of moving towards ‘year round’ trading, in common with other holiday destinations such as Blackpool.

The current feelgood factor being experienced by Skegness is also evident at its sister resorts and venues further along this stretch of the coast – including Butlin’s, Ingoldmells, Chapel St Leonards, Sutton-on-Sea, Trusthorpe and Mablethorpe.

Skegness town manager, Lisa Collins has been in post for just over a year. She was originally recruited to be Business Improvement District (BID) manager, but is currently working with the Skegness Partnership.

Together with Visit East Lincolnshire, it has commissioned a feasibility study which is looking at the Skegness area, possibly including Ingoldmells and Chapel-St-Leonards, becoming a Tourism BID. This study is being done by The Mosaic Partnership.

In the meantime, Lisa said that all the businesses in the town are now working together much more closely, with the Skegness Partnership and Chamber of Commerce and this is making a difference.

“Everything is looking very very positive for Skegness at the moment. There’s lots going on, with new developments on the way and businesses are interested at looking at ‘year round’ trading,” she said.

“An exciting multi-million pound aquarium is now taking shape on the site of the old Panda’s Palace on the seafront. It is being developed by Teen Spirit Ltd, which owns the Tower Cinema and other attractions, and it should open this summer.

“We shall also have the SO Festival, which will bring eleven days of art, culture and sport to east Lincolnshire. It runs from 25th June to 5th July and there will also be fringe events.”

Last year more than 90,000 people visited the SO Festival, which typically features an amazing mix of street theatre, performance art and live music – all for free.

“The horse-drawn landaus are already back in action on the seafront and it is hoped the Land Train will return this year. We have also started doing Continental Markets, with the next one due to take place from 3rd to 9th August, when we shall have the end of Lumley Road closed off,” said Lisa.

“We are also doing a lot of work to recruit Ambassadors, with the aim of giving visitors a great welcome. Some currently act as meeters and greeters on Saturdays, when special holiday trains arrive. The Skegness Silver Band plays and The Jolly Fisherman is around, but we need more to work on the seafront and in other key areas.”

Nothing is being left to chance when it comes to ensuring that Skegness’s visitors leave the town feeling happy and eager to return for more of its hospitality. That is why businesses are being urged to polish their staff’s skills.

“We are going for destination status for Skegness under the WorldHost Customer Service scheme. That means we need twenty-five per cent of our customer-facing leisure businesses on the seafront to put at least fifty per cent of their staff forward for this training,” said Lisa.

She added that, when it comes to extending the season and boosting the local economy, many businesses can see the potential benefit of venues such as Storehouse, Grand Central, the Southview Hotel and Grosvenor House Hotel offering workshops and conferences.

“That would encourage a lot more business people to return to Skegness for team building and other courses and that, in turn, would have the power to create a positive knock-on effect for shops and cafes.”

The Skegness East Coast Wolds Hospitality Association – better known to many as SECWHA – has been established since 2008 and now boasts more than 100 members.

Created through the amalgamation of the old Skegness Hoteliers’ Association and The Skegness Self Catering Association, it signposts holidaymakers to great places to stay.

And, whatever their budget, families can feel reassured that their chosen accommodation, whether it is self-catering, a bed and breakfast establishment or a hotel, has passed a rigorous annual inspection.

The Association’s executive committee chair, Nigel Tett said: “Skegness had a very good season last year. It was one of the best for twenty years and a lot of that was down to a combination of the hard work done by businesses and the good weather.

“That sort of thing reflects on people’s plans for the following year. It seems that it gave everyone a shot in the arm and the economy benefited as a whole. Bookings for 2015, for both self-catered and serviced accommodation area well ahead, so it’s a very positive scenario.

“We are already starting to extend the ‘shoulders’ of the traditional holiday season a little. An example of that is the very popular Skegness Beach Race, which this year will take place on 7th and 8th November.”

This crowdpulling motocross event usually attracts upwards of 20,000 spectators and in the region of 250 riders over the weekend.

“We are a very popular destination for bowls clubs and we feel there is an opportunity to host indoor bowls championships in, say, late March and late October/November,” said Mr Tett.

“Our discussions about this are at a very early stage, but if these events ran for a week at either end of the season, that would create a demand for 6,000 overnight stays on each occasion.”

SKEGNESS COUNTRYSIDE BUSINESS PARK
Hundreds more job opportunities could soon be on offer in Skegness, following the launch of a new £8 million development site.

Local companies that attended the event at the Aura Business Centre were given the lowdown on The Skegness Countryside Business Park, which will create a range of business spaces and the potential for 700 jobs.

The project, which is being masterminded by Lincolnshire County Council, the Greater Lincolnshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Croftmarsh Limited, say the park will be a great benefit to the local economy.

Lincolnshire County Council’s group manager for economic development, Paul Wheatley said: “The business park will give local firms the room they need to grow, something that will be of great benefit to the local economy.”

The Countryside Business Park has been part of the long-term development strategy by local company Croftmarsh Limited and is designed to provide an important development site for national and local businesses, enabling them to be situated to support the envisaged expansion of the Skegness and surrounding area’s economy.

“It is believed the site of sixty-seven acres will be a substantial fit-for-purpose business park, where future occupiers can thrive and succeed and be an important part of Skegness’s growth in coming years.

“Our private sector investment, with national and county support, will assist job creation on the park and this working together has pulled forward this development which will be important to supporting the growth of the Lincolnshire coast and creating real and diverse job opportunities for its residents.”

The project is being made possible thanks to funding from the Single Local Growth Deal grant, provided through the LEP, County Council and Croftmarsh Limited. There are plans to start work on site this autumn.

VISIT US TOO!
Lovers of the seaside are spoilt for choice at the Lincolnshire coast – because there are so many places to visit.

You can decide to stay at Skegness and then get out and about to other nearby holiday spots, or book accommodation at one of them instead.

Skegness’s closest neighbour is Ingoldmells, which is a real pull for families. You might decide to stay at Butlin’s – or be a day visitor – and enjoy all the attractions, including its new £16 million waterpark.

Just up the road is the hugely popular playground Fantasy Island, which is bursting with daring rides, fun attractions and stalls laden with goodies.

Chapel St Leonards, Anderby Creek, Sutton-on-Sea, Trusthorpe and Mablethorpe are also worth checking out. Sutton on Sea offers sea, sand, shopping, coffee bars and fish and chips while nearby Mablethorpe has everything from supermarket to souvenir shopping, amusement arcades and cafes – as well as a great dose of seaside air!

ORCHID BOUTIQUE
Shopaholics will enjoy browsing Skegness’s mix of national and independent shops – and they could be surprised with what they discover when they step away from the main streets.

Fashionistas, who are not already in the know, are sure to enjoy popping into the Orchid Boutique in Rutland Road and its sister business dress agency Hobo, which is found “below stairs.”

Owner Tanya Hardy took over the boutique premises three years ago and launched Orchid with the aim of offering women a great choice in mid-to-high end ladieswear.

She went on to open Hobo a year ago, which has provided space for new sale items and good quality nearly-new garments. It all adds up to a clever shopping experience.

“I strive to offer shoppers a good choice of casual and smart wear for all occasions and, in addition to local customers, people travel to the boutique from places such as Louth, Grimsby and Sleaford,” said Tanya.

“Adding Hobo has allowed me to offer my customers (and others) somewhere where they can potentially sell on fashions which they may have originally bought from me,” said Tanya.

Tanya also sells her fashions online via her website, which gives people another opportunity to see her latest stock and place orders out of hours.

“I’m proud to be an independent business which is able to offer people something different in the way of quality fashions,” added Tanya.

Orchid Boutique will be moving to their new premises at 22 Eastgate, Louth on 15th May.

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