Weston’s tourist industry will ‘bounce back’ from coronavirus, say council leaders

Weston's imposing Grand Atlantic hotel.

Weston's imposing Grand Atlantic hotel. - Credit: Archant

The council’s deputy leader also revealed it had ‘pressed’ the Government for more assistance with its tourism industry.

The Grand Atlantic Hotel in 1889

The Grand Atlantic Hotel in 1889 - Credit: John Crockford-Hawley

Town leaders remain optimistic for Weston’s tourism industry, despite the recent closure of a prominent seaside hotel. The Grand Atlantic Hotel’s closure was announced by its parent company, Specialist Leisure Group, which went into administration on May 22.

A statement on the leisure group’s website said: “All tours, cruises, holidays and hotel breaks booked with the Specialist Leisure Group have been cancelled and will not be rescheduled.

“The Specialist Leisure Group operated several businesses that sold holidays and other travel arrangements under the following brand names, which have all ceased to trade, due to the impact of Covid-19.

“All hotels trading as Bay Hotels, Coast & Country Hotels and Country Living Hotels will not reopen.”

North Somerset Council's executive team featuring Mike Bell and Mark Canniford, second and third in

North Somerset Council's executive team featuring Mike Bell and Mark Canniford, second and third in the top row. - Credit: Archant

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The Grand Atlantic Hotel has been a prominent feature on Weston seafront for years, though its future now looks bleak.

More: Grand Atlantic Hotel, Weston, closes as holding firm collapses.

North Somerset Council’s executive member for business, economy and employment, Mark Canniford, said: “Once upon a time when you came to Weston, the Grand Atlantic Hotel was where you stayed.

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“It is a great shame because it was once the premier hotel of Weston and the town has needed another premier hotel and that building is perfect for it.”

Cllr Canniford is adamant the seafront’s tourism industry can bounce back from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

He added: “Clearly, the loss of jobs in town is tragic, and sadly there will be an awful lot of losses in that industry in the next few months.

“But, the tourism industry, unlike most, could have a quick rebound after Covid-19 once it reopens. People are desperate to get away and go into the fresh air.

“Overseas holidays will suffer and more people will staycation. If we can get Weston buzzing, there will be operators interested in the Grand Atlantic Hotel building because it is a special site.”

More: Bride-to-be gets dream wedding, thanks to Grand Pier owner.

The authority’s deputy leader, Mike Bell said the council would support any potential new owner for the Grand Atlantic Hotel, who would preserve the historic building.

He said: “For the remainder of this year, foreign holidays are going to be difficult or undesirable for many people. So, there may well be an opportunity for us all to encourage people to holiday here in the UK and help our businesses recover at the same time.

“In the short term, I hope a buyer will be found for the interests of the SLG Group which will see the business survive in a new form. It’s too soon to say what might become of the hotel, but the council will want to support new ownership that preserves and enhances this historic building on our seafront.”

Cllr Bell said the council is working to develop a recovery plan to help North Somerset bounce back, and it is pressing the Government to do more to support the tourism and leisure industry.

He added: “We have made the point to our MPs and ministers that the grants for business rate paying companies and the bank loans might help people get through this short-term situation, but they will not enable people to manage with social distancing, prolonged periods of closure or the need for improved marketing or ways of working in future.

“The Government needs to offer more funding particularly for those in leisure industries such as accommodation, visitor attractions, pubs and restaurants etc to get through this and recover in future.”

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