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Setting the scene

Find out more about the detailed analysis for the English Riviera Destination Management Plan.

This section contains a summary of the detailed analysis, which is contained in an accompanying Baseline Evidence document.

The Sector

The English Riviera has a substantial visitor economy, as illustrated in Figure 1, and there has been steady progress during the previous DMP (2017-21), in particular:

  • Strengthened partnership working across the private and public sector, with a new Destination Management Group (DMG) overseeing DMP delivery.
  • Improved marketing delivery through focused work of the English Riviera BID Company Ltd (ERBIDCo).
  • Better links between the sector and skills development, with the close collaboration of South Devon College (SDC).

As a traditional coastal resort, it is perhaps unsurprising that holidays dominate the visitor profile at 78% of all visits, compared to the England average of 47%, and 29% of all visits taking place during July and August [2].

COVID-19 has undeniably had a devastating impact on the resort. Despite this, the sector has remained resilient with positive results from summer 2021 and achieving accolades such as TripAdvisor’s 2021 Number 1 Staycation Destination. There has also been continued investment in products and businesses across the destination.

Visitor economy 2019

  • 4.5m visits
  • £563m
  • Staying visitors 24% of visits and 71% spend
  • 87% of visitors are returning
  • 915 accommodation establishments and 31,000 bedspaces
  • 7500 FTE jobs

Figure 1: The English Riviera Visitor Economy 2019

National strategic context

The 2021 independent review of Destination Management Organisations (DMOs) in England, the ‘De Bois Review’ recommended the implementation of a new tiering system of DMOs and structured support for tourism and describes the confusing array of organisations highlighting the South West in particular. The review recognises the benefits of longer-term commitments to marketing with funding models delivered by Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and Tourism BIDS (TBIDS), with significant return on investment from the English Riviera (£75: £1 [3]) being the highest of those DMOs that responded to the review. In responding to the review, published in July 2022, the Government has indicated its support for reduced fragmentation and better co-ordination with proposals for a new accreditation for tourism DMOs (renamed Local Visitor Economy Partnerships). It has however chosen to initially pilot a new regional Destination Development Partnership model with funding for one area in England, (yet to be determined). At the time of writing, there is still much detail to be worked through and the English Riviera should continue to work in partnership with neighbouring areas in Devon and the Great South West Tourism Partnership, strengthening collaboration wherever possible.

The recent outcomes of COP26 and the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Change for Tourism, as well as the ‘Towards 2030’ prospectus from the Great South West Tourism Partnership, lay down the challenge of achieving clean growth and Net Zero in tourism by 2050. Therefore, it is imperative to start now. This DMP offers an ideal opportunity to think about an approach and actions that will help move the English Riviera and tourism businesses towards a goal of achieving Net Zero. However, this DMP cannot include everything that is needed to achieve this. Therefore, by working in partnership to align the DMP with Carbon Neutral Torbay, and with support from Torbay Climate Partnership and Torbay Council’s Climate Emergency Officer to identify suitable opportunities, should go hand in hand when implementing the plan.

Local strategic context

As with most local areas, there are various corporate plans and strategies for place, economic development, community, culture, heritage, and events. This DMP aligns with Torbay’s strategic and corporate plans and the vision of the Torbay Story, (launched in early 2022), all of which will help the English Riviera thrive as a sustainable visitor destination.

In addition to the distinctive three towns that make up the English Riviera, each with their own Torbay story theme and appealing to different visitor markets, the review of the English Riviera visitor experience also identified six ‘signature experiences’:

  • UNESCO Global Geopark – designation covering the whole of the English Riviera
  • Beside the Sea – boats and harbours, boat trips, seaside and beaches, seafood
  • Family fun – beaches, wide range of family attractions
  • Walking – the South West Coast Path, UNESCO Global Geopark Walks, John Musgrave Heritage Trail
  • On and in the Water – adventure activities, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, RIB rides, sailing and sea swimming
  • Heritage and Culture – museums, theatres, and galleries, including Agatha Christie related heritage and events.

In addition to these leisure signature experiences; the English Riviera has a range of conferencing and business event facilities for business visitors and conference and event organisers. This includes purpose-built venues such as the Riviera International Conference Centre (RICC), established hotels with conference and meeting spaces such as The Grand, The Imperial and Livermead Cliff Hotel, unique venues such as Torre Abbey, and new build hotels such as the Hampton by Hilton, Ibis and Mercure adding yet more modern facilities.

Comparators and best practice

From the examples of best practice in other destinations, the underlying lessons to take forward are:

  • Quality is key – in public realm, gateways, accommodation, and attractions.
  • Communities and businesses need to ‘buy in’ – to the DMP delivery and working collaboratively on taking the actions forward. E.g. adopting messaging, sustainability and low carbon, and interpretation opportunities from the UNESCO Global Geopark.
  • Creativity must be nurtured – E.g. ‘pop-ups’ in redundant spaces.
  • Activities are fun to watch as well as ‘do’ – water activities development, supporting activity with essential changing facilities.
  • Culture and events can animate and invigorate destinations - and have the greatest impact out of the summer season, but they have a lifecycle and need to adapt or risk losing impact.
  • ‘Brilliant Basics’ - successful visitor destinations look after their ‘brilliant basics,’ such as toilets, parking, cleanliness, access, and water quality. While these things do not drive visits, if not looked after they will put visitors off coming.

DMP consultation

The input of stakeholders, businesses and residents through online surveys, a series of workshops and one to one consultations, provided many useful insights including:

  • There is inconsistent quality across the visitor experience, including town centres and accommodation.
  • An over-supply of accommodation is depressing prices and restricting investment. Current planning policies (TO2 Change of use of tourism accommodation and facilities [4]) are helpful in addressing this but need to go further.
  • Environmental and sustainable improvements are needed and important.
  • Market awareness and appeal of the English Riviera brand. There is a recognition that it unites the destination, giving coherence and a focus for businesses.
  • The UNESCO Global Geopark designation is important, but often underused and misunderstood.
  • Tor Bay is a magnificent asset, and the underlying quality of the award-winning beaches, harbour and marine and sea-based activities are excellent.
  • Developing demand out of the main summer season is vital.
  • Connectivity between the towns, including signage and the rail stations, needs improving.
  • New markets demand a better range of food and drink, culture, retail, music, and entertainment and see other destinations offering this.
  • Culture is important to the destination and can be used and developed further to attract new visitors.
  • The six weeks public consultation gained support for the plan’s objectives, the vision statement, growth markets, priority themes and overall direction of travel.
  1. Great Britain Tourism Survey. VisitBritain. 2019
  2. ERBID1 results. ERBID 2 Final Business Plan. English Riviera BID Company Ltd 2021.
  3. Torbay Local Plan 2012-2030. Torbay Council. Adopted December 2015