Closure threat to tourism group

Barbara Mackenzie, president of the Holiday Association of Lytham St Annes with the letter sent out to members
Barbara Mackenzie, president of the Holiday Association of Lytham St Annes with the letter sent out to members
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A group which has provided vital promotion for hotels across Fylde for decades is set to close its doors for good.

The Holiday Association of Lytham St Annes, popularly known as HALSA, has a long history dating back close to a century.

But from hundreds of representatives in its heyday, membership has fallen to around 30, with far fewer than that now active in the organisation.

Membership has been falling gradually over a number of years and in 2013, shortly after the death of long-time president Paul Rollings, a bid was made to boost the organisation to make sure his legacy continued.

It appeared to rally for a time - but now members have been informed that unless outstanding membership fees and firm pledges of support, particularly from the larger hotels, are forthcoming by the end of this month, HALSA will be wound up.

In a letter sent out to members this week, HALSA president Barbara Mackenzie said: “At our last meeting, members decided that if no pledges of support were forthcoming and if outstanding membership fees were not paid by the end of May the association would be wound up.

“Membership of HALSA was dwindling even before our former president, Paul Rollings, died, and a letter and survey were sent out to see if members wanted to carry on.

“It was decided to continue and there was a period where attendance at meetings was good and events like the pancake race were reintroduced.

“Disappointingly, after that initial rush of enthusiasm, numbers began dwindling again, despite various attempts to make the association relevant to today’s world.

“We revamped the website, tried several times to persuade members to use the same energy provider to enable us to bargain for cheaper tariffs, encouraged cafes and restaurants to join HALSA, and invited speakers to our meetings.

“We have also tried varying the days and times of meetings, meeting less frequently, and tried to encourage larger hotels to support us, as in the past - but all to no avail.

“Furthermore, we have not been able to raise enough money to continue paying for bandstand entertainment on Sundays during the summer, especially after Fylde Council cancelled their contribution.

“So, unless outstanding membership fees and firm pledges of support, particularly from the larger hotels, are forthcoming by the end of May, HALSA will have to be wound up.”

At its height in the middle part of the last century, the Association had hundreds of members, with prestige social events often held at the flagship Majestic Hotel, which dominated the seafront until its demolition in the 1970s.

But by the turn of the last decade, membership had fallen to an all-time low of fewer than 30 hoteliers, many of them operating medium-sized premises and bed and breakfast establishments.

The potential demise of the organisation ironically comes as Lytham St Annes is attarcting more visitors than it has for some years with a series of events being added regularly to the calendar.

Barbara added: “We know how customers contact hotels and book rooms has changed so much in recent years but personal servuice is as important as ever an we feel there are so many benefits to the idea of hotels working togetrher for the common good.”

Coun Cheryl Little, chairman of Fylde Council’s tourism and leisure committee and soon to take over as the next St Annes town mayor, said she was sad to hear that HALSA’s future was under threat.

“It is a shame that it is in danger of folding, especially when so many visiors are being encourged to Fylde an increasing range of events,” she said.

“It is important that hotels have a voice and HALSA has worked in partnership with Fylde Council - but people have busy lives these days and perhaps a change of format to perhaps an online forum for hotels to pool ideas, might be a way forward.

“I would be happy to do anything I can to help.”

Barbara, a former town mayor who runs the Anchorage Hotel in Orchard Road, St Annes can be contacted at barbaramackenzie13@gmail.com