Scores of hotels and restaurants in the heart of Blackpool are up for sale – with a collective asking price of £20m.
The news comes as more than 100 commercial properties, including bars, restaurants, takeaways and hotels stand empty on the streets of Blackpool as the aftermath of the recession – and fierce competition among businesses – takes hold.
Many hoteliers are facing a long, hard season as they struggle to fill rooms. Some say they want to leave the resort as soon as possible.
Seventy three hotels are up for sale – and would generate as much as £17.3m alone – if they were sold today.
Among the more well known businesses, The Kensington Hotel, on Blackpool’s South Promenade, is valued at a huge £1m, the Bedford Hotel, on New South Promenade, is on the market for £975,000 and the Silversands Hotel is for sale at £875,000.
Commercial estate agents in the resort said they were struggling to sell hotels.
Paul Crossley, managing director at Kenricks estate agents, said: “One of the reasons at the moment we’re struggling to sell hotels is because the banks are still unwilling to lend people money.
“There are still willing clients but a shortfall in funds available.”
Jonny Cuddy,of Michael Cuddy Estate Agents, on Church Street, added: “There seems to be an increasing number of vacant guest houses that people are looking to get rid of so there doesn’t seem to be much of a market for people running guest houses any more.
“We’ve been through just about the worst recession in 100 years so not as many people can afford to come to Blackpool like they used to, plus cheaper flights have made it easier for people to go abroad.
He added: “The last four, five or six years have probably taken their toll on most people and a lot of people want to sell up and release equity if they can.
“It’s Catch 22 though, do you hold on in the hope some sort of trade comes back or cut your losses and sell up?”
Jo-Anne and Henry Tonks are asking for just shy of £160,000 for their 10-bedroom Melrose Hotel on Hornby Road.
Henry, 65, wants to retire.
“We’ve been here for seven years now having planned to do five years but we knew we had no chance of selling two years ago,” said Jo-Anne, 47.
“Even now we know it could take a couple of years to sell because of the way things are – we’ve only had two viewings since July last year.
“The banks just aren’t lending. Business has been slow for the last couple of years but this year is shaping up to be a really good year and we are still making a good living.”
Another town centre hotel owner who is trying to sell up, said: “When we came here 10 years ago things were a lot better but the last three or four years have been really hard.
“For this Bank Holiday Monday we had less than a quarter of our rooms booked.
“Everyone seems to want so much more – but they want to pay less for it.”
Peter Dale, who has run Newholme on Hornby Road for six years, said he and his partner had put their hotel on the market for £135,000 because she needed an operation.
“How well a hotel does at the moment can depend on how well it is run, but people in Blackpool can have a better chance than in other places because of how popular it is with visitors,” he said.
Another town centre owner – who also said he was selling up due to his partner’s ill health, added: “Business has held up since the recession and 85 per cent of our business is repeat business, so we would also consider leasing it.”
Claire Smith, president of the Hotelier’s Association Stay Blackpool, said: “The (for sale) figures don’t surprise me at all because there’s always a high number of Blackpool hotels up for sale.
“I would imagine that in the current economic climate there’s a bit more movement, and a lot of hotels are up for sale because people are retiring or wanting to move.”
The Frenchmans Cove, on South King Street, is valued at £275,000, and Central Drive’s George Hotel is up for sale at £150,000.
Two more town centre pubs are on the market – Copacabana, on Clifton Street, and Progress Social Club, on Exchange Street, bring the total value to £619,950.
Blackpool Pubwatch chairman Craig Southall, said: “There’s been a change in people’s culture.
“There’s a reason people don’t come into town nowadays, like social networking.
“People can now check up with each other on there rather than going out at the end of the week.
“People are also consuming less alcohol these days and fewer people frequent the town centre, and the market has slowed down, so it’s a lot tougher to run a pub.”
Mr Cuddy added: “They’ve got some good developments going on in Blackpool like the big Sainsbury’s at Talbot Gateway and a few other developments like Foxhall Village that are going to drive people in. If improvements like that keep being invested into the town more and more people are going to want to come here.”