Leading Article: We do like to be beside the British seaside

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The Independent Culture
WE HAVE reinvented British retailing, British cuisine and British fashion. But one thing which remains stubbornly unmodernised about this country is tourism. We now have a passably chic way for visitors to arrive in London from Heathrow in the new train service - and if they are then deposited in the shambles of Paddington station it is at least a quaint British shambles instead of the surreal torture of the Piccadilly line which was their fate before. But when it comes to the idea of British people indulging in tourism in their own country, the snobbery really bites. Despite the patchy efforts of some resorts like Bournemouth to repackage themselves as trendy young people's hangouts, the British seaside town has an image problem. In terms of consumer perceptions, it is down there with Monsanto.

So what has Fred Offiler been doing, going to Mablethorpe in Lincolnshire, just along the coast from Skegness, every year for the last 75 years? The response of most people, including most of this newspaper's readers, is probably to pity him. What does he know of the Tuscan grape, the gite on the Lot, the translucent seas of Bali, the golden sands, coral and palms of exotic destinations easily bookable on the Internet?

Well, he might retort, he does not know much, either, about jet lag, exotic infections, or sleeping on suitcases at the airport while queuing to get out of the country. And one of the main reasons for leaving the country, namely to see the sun, is a lot less pressing now that Britain has been globally warmed to Mediterranean temperatures. Mablethorpe may have a sea-haze, but it is not as cold - sorry, "bracing" - as it used to be.

The whole point of going on holiday is to go somewhere new, do something different and, if not actually speak another language (we are British after all), at least be surrounded by people speaking another language. But perhaps we have reached the point where the Smiths - or the Schmidts - next door have already got their towels on the beach in every feasible destination around the globe, and the idea of going on holiday in our own country has become so outrageous that those who are really in search of a new experience might go to Mablethorpe with Fred.

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