The British seaside resort dips its toe into excitement and good value

The future of the British seaside looked a little brighter last week with the opening of TLH Leisure Resort in Torquay, writes Susan Marling
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The Independent Travel

The £3m development over seven acres is centred on four swimming pools and the 80ft Aztec Falls. The resort includes several hotels, a cyber-café, electric bowling alley and an all-weather "games zone" for children. The project, by Torquay Leisure Hotels, is aimed at attracting substantial numbers of families, couples and groups all year round.

The £3m development over seven acres is centred on four swimming pools and the 80ft Aztec Falls. The resort includes several hotels, a cyber-café, electric bowling alley and an all-weather "games zone" for children. The project, by Torquay Leisure Hotels, is aimed at attracting substantial numbers of families, couples and groups all year round.

But elsewhere the picture postcard from the seaside is not too cheerful because too many hotels and guesthouses are dirty and poorly run.

The greatest number of customer complaints are in the areas of "cleanliness and the overall level of service and welcome", according to Mary Lynch, chief executive of the English Tourism Council. She is concerned at what continues to be the comparatively low standard of accommodation in English resorts.

In towns such as Torquay up to 40 per cent of holiday accommodation will fall outside independent inspection schemes. In Blackpool, the figure rises to 95 per cent, and while the resort may look successful, with 16 million visits a year, many guest houses are ticking over on very low levels of occupancy.

In her first six months in the job, Lynch claims her priority has been to encourage a rise in the quality of accommodation. "We have a task force in place to help improve standards. In places such as Blackpool we can put money together from a variety of sources, including European funding, to help make physical improvements to properties."

In other struggling resorts, there have been more radical moves to address quality. "In Morecambe, whole streets of poor-quality guestshouses, used latterly as b&b accommodation for homeless people, have been subject to compulsory purchase orders and demolished," she said. "They've been replaced with open parkland." Elsewhere, planners have allowed the failing guesthouses to be turned back into residential accommodation.

"We want hoteliers to put themselves in their guests' place and understand their needs," said Lynch.From next April, approved accommodation in England will find its way online in a website linking accommodation, attractions, events, restaurants, shopping and services.

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