Whitstable and Eastbourne have headed a list of the UK's fastest growing seaside resort destinations, with massive investment and an expansion of high-end tourism cited as major factors in a reversal of fortunes for the UK's seaside destinations.
Ranked by a growth in tourism-related businesses, number of employees and a growth in visitor numbers to tourist attractions, Whitstable, in Kent, and Eastbourne, in East Sussex, with 13.9 per cent and 11 per cent respectively, headed the list.
They were followed by Penzance, Weymouth and Portland, Brighton and Hove andWorthing.
Brighton & Hove, Torbay and Blackpool were the most popular seaside towns, based on the number of visitors to tourist attractions and the number of tourism-related businesses in each area.
Markedly, the three resorts had the most investment, £23m, £22m and £11m respectively,
The figures, released by the CSMA Club, a motoring and leisure association, show more Brits are opting for UK seaside breaks over foreign travel.
The trend, helped by £100 million worth of public investment in seaside towns, resulted in 21 per cent more UK holidaymakers staying overnight and spending almost a quarter more money at the English coast this year, it said.
A CSMA spokesman said British tourists were expected to spend £9 billion at the coast over the summer months.
He said: "After the decline in popularity in the 1990s, the British seaside has been reinventing itself. Gone are the days of a donkey ride on the beach and a round of crazy golf – as one in six British holidaymakers opt for fine dining and afternoon tea at the seaside, with many UK holidaymakers planning trips to artisan markets, antique shops and art galleries."
High-end tourism had seen a particular increase with upmarket boutiques, antique shops, art galleries and Michelin-starred restaurants frequently setting up shop in seaside resorts, he said, offering holidaymakers a break with a contemporary makeover.
Earlier this year, Margate opened The Turner Contemporary Art Gallery on its seafront, while the Horsebridge Gallery opened at nearby Whitstable. Rock in Cornwall saw its restaurant Nathan Outlaw awarded two Michelin-stars this summer and Dover eatery The Marquis has been named as one of only four rising stars nationwide in 2011 by the Michelin guide.
Despite the recent trend towards seaside chic breaks, the spokesman added, there were some traditions that UK seaside-goers refuse to break. Six in ten holidaymakers said they plan to eat fish and chips and four in 10 said they will go for a stroll on the pier. In total, one in three holiday goers cite the traditional appeal of UK coastal resorts as a reason for choosing their seaside holiday.
Mark Rothery, Group Chief Executive of CSMA Club, said: "There are many advantages of visiting one of Britain's coastal towns rather than going overseas. Not only is it often more affordable but you also avoid the hassle of the airport and there's something to entertain everyone – whether that's traditional beach fun, waterside activities, coastal walks or fine dining. Today's research proves that the British seaside is on the way up and with that the quality of hotels and guesthouses has also improved."
CSMA Club provides its members with discounted breakdown and car insurance, as well as exclusive access to leisure events and holiday homes.