Holiday changes would kill Yarmouth, say tourism leaders

PUBLISHED: 15:19 12 September 2014

Tony Smith from Saras Tearooms: half his 'cake' comes in the summer
Picture: James Bass

Tony Smith from Saras Tearooms: half his 'cake' comes in the summer Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2014

The clamour is growing from Norfolk’s tourism leaders to ditch planned school holiday changes which they claim would cost thousands of jobs.

A delegation of Great Yarmouth businessmen is to meet local MP and government minister Brandon Lewis next Tuesday to spell out what they see as the devastating impact of the Government’s Deregulation Bill which would give schools across England the freedom to dictate the shape of their academic year.

The bill, due to be discussed in the House of Lords next month, has been championed by former education secretary Michael Gove who wants to reduce summer holidays from six to four weeks and claims the education system is being handicapped by what he describes as a 19th century timetable.

However, Visit Norfolk brand manager Pete Waters said the impact of the likely changes - moving two of the weeks to create longer breaks away from the summer - would be to send increasing numbers of domestic tourists abroad.

“Families want to have their holidays in warm weather, something that cannot be guaranteed in England in October. The winners in this are going to be the airlines and foreign tourism destinations,” he said.

Yarmouth Pleasure Beach boss Albert Jones, left, who employs 100 people in high season, said: “It will be the biggest challenge I have had to deal with in business if this bill goes ahead.

“Around 50pc of our takings come during the six weeks in July and August. Taking away two of those weeks would be like telling shops they can only open so many days at Christmas.

“No seaside business in Yarmouth would survive on four weeks of summer holiday trading. It would cost thousands of jobs and major tourist attractions like us would close.”

Peter Jay, who runs the Hippodrome Circus, said: “We cannot operate anything on a four-week summer holiday; there would be no circus and the impact would be felt at resorts across the country.”

Former Yarmouth Mayor Tony Smith, who runs the renowned Sarah’s Tearooms in Pleasure Beach Gardens, said: “Between 52pc and 55pc of my turnover comes in the six weeks - that’s 42 days out of the 175 days we are open.

“The vast majority of seaside businesses would become marginal if these changes went ahead and it is already becoming harder and harder to maintain the status quo.”

He voiced his concern that Yarmouth and other seaside towns would follow the fate of Margate in Kent where the seaside industry had already collapsed.

Vice-chairman of Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association Peter Williamson, who has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds during his 10 years at Yarmouth’s Merrivale Model Village, said longer holidays outside the summer would not work for outdoor attractions - and he predicted it would send prices rocketing for families during the shorter school summer holiday.

Mr Lewis confirmed he would be meeting local tourism leaders to learn about their concerns before the bill came back to the House of Commons.

However, he said: “The Government has been putting power back in the hands of schools, moving away from Labour’s top-down approach to education.

“The changes in the Deregulation Bill will allow schools to respond to the needs of their children and the preferences of their parents. Many schools have already used these powers to the benefit of their pupils. I think that it is important that schools have the power to deliver the most suitable educational timetable for their students to be best placed for the future.”

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