Eastbourne MP mounts powerful case for tourism economy drive

MP mounts tourism economy drive Eastbourne Pier
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Caroline Ansell, the MP representing the Sussex resort of Eastbourne, is concerned about the short, medium and long-term implications of the absence of English Language students in the town stating that we can only relax when Eastbourne Pier is once again thronged with French teenagers.


Caroline Ansell, the Conservative MP for Eastbourne, has made a compelling case for a joined-up and integrated support programme for the leisure, tourism and educational sectors in her south coast constituency.

Caroline Ansell Eastbourne MPAnsell’s holistic economic and cultural argument reflects the interdependence of key sectors in the Eastbourne economy. In a column for the conservative home website she explained: “In my constituency, nearly one job in three depends on tourism. That’s why I have been relentlessly lobbying both in Parliament and behind the scenes to support this sector through the pandemic.

“You might think that the ending of restrictions means life will return to normal on the pier and in our amusement arcades, shops and cafes, but that’s not the full tourism story for our town and many others.”

If the relaxation of regulations restricting international travel result in an exodus of staycationers seeking the guaranteed sunshine of southern Europe she believes it will result in a large gap in the economy of Eastbourne and many other British towns and cities, a gap usually filled by international students.

“It’s a little-known fact that students learning English in the UK are the bedrock of Eastbourne’s tourist economy and many other towns and cities on the South coast and all over the UK” she explained. “In Eastbourne alone, we have six English language teaching (ELT) centres.

Our international students are a vital part of the visitor landscape, whereby each summer the town’s population swells and its average age plummets. “Our international schools are local employers. They provide business for local transport and tourist venues, and pump prime retail and food outlets. Likewise, importantly, there is secondary income support for the several hundred host families for whom the time in the summer hosting students makes the difference. All of these secondary businesses, and these families, are missing the annual 500,000 students who stopped booking and arriving in March 2020, with little or no prospect of their return while two weeks of quarantine is compulsory.

“Sixty per cent of ELT students are teenagers from Europe who come for a week or two and are unlikely to come if they’ll spend longer quarantining than on their course. Figures from the trade association English UK found a £590m loss for last year, for a sector which normally puts £1.4bn into the economy.”

She added: “This industry’s survival is still not guaranteed, which is why with other backbench colleagues I am continuing to campaign for more targeted government help for English language schools and tourism. Our first ask has been for the Government to ensure that all English language schools automatically get business rates relief. While furlough continues, rates are the largest outgoing for many centres.

“Simply extending the business rates relief concession to all language schools would help many to survive until the spring, when we hope students will be booking and arriving once more. Industry estimates are that this would cost just £17m.

“The teenagers who come to Eastbourne, or Bournemouth, or a summer camp in an independent school, are more likely to build a lifetime’s affinity with the UK. Visit Britain research shows that ELT students stay longer and spend much more than other tourists.

“If we wish to retain those benefits of social and cultural enrichment, of inward investment and soft power, I believe the specific calls of the sector need to be debated, just as its deep value to the UK needs to be celebrated.

“And when Eastbourne pier is once more thronged with French teenagers, we can heave a sigh of relief.”

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