Hundreds of hotels, restaurants and bars worth almost £40m are up for sale across Blackpool, new figures reveal today.
A staggering 140 hotels, boasting close to 2,000 rooms between them, are currently on the market – double the amount at the same time last year.
And adding in guest houses, restaurants, bars and cafes, the number of commercial properties listed for sale climbs to 200. It comes despite hoteliers reporting an upturn in business in the past 12 months, following years of struggle during the recession.
Estate agents today inisisted interest in Blackpool remains high but blamed banks’ unwillingness to lend cash for the catalogue of ‘for sale’ property littering the resort.
And hoteliers are also calling on banks to start lending to would-be buyers in a bid to reduce the level of property on the market.
Colin Salisbury, commercial sales manager at Broomheads estate agents, said: “There is certainly an appetite still for Blackpool.
“Things are positive – visitor numbers are up and we can definitely see improvements going on.
“It is noticeably better but it is hard for hoteliers because I don’t think values have improved. There is a definite plateau for prices.”
Although many people have struggled to sell their businesses in recent years, traders are hopeful another good season could kick-start investment in the resort.
Tough new rules brought in by the banks are being blamed for the slow property market that has left some hoteliers waiting years to sell their businesses – and led to more than £40m in property up for sale.
Would-be buyers are having to lease hotels because they are being turned down by lenders, according to estate agents in Blackpool.
One hotelier has faced a wait of almost a decade in his bid to sell his property as the resort struggles to shake off the effects of the recession.
Adrian Smurthwaite, who owns The Albany Hotel (pictured), on Albert Road, said: “I’ve had my hotel up for sale for eight years and in that time I have only had two people looking round it. The problem is none of the banks will lend on Blackpool hotels.
“For me to sell mine I would have to find a buyer who can put at least 75 or 80 per cent of the price down in cash.”
The stricter criteria has hit those looking to change careers and relocate to the seaside – a staple of the Blackpool bed and breakfast trade – particularly hard.
Mr Smurthwaite added: “Buyers also have to have relevant industry experience before they can get a loan. The days when people just came to Blackpool with their redundancy money to buy a hotel have gone.
“So it is tough to find buyers in these circumstances and that’s why so many hotels are for sale.
“The only ones that are selling are put into the London auctions and people buy them on the belief they can turn them into flats, but the council often won’t let them.
“For some people it is easier just to shut the doors and hand their keys in.”
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers’ group Stay Blackpool, said she was not concerned by the number of properties on the market.
“There are always a lot of hotels up for sale,” she added.
“I know of a number of hotels that have sold recently.
“We want those hotels that aren’t in use to get sold and redeveloped.”
While many want-away traders continue to run their businesses while they wait for a buyer to come forward, there have long been complaints over the number of empty properties in the town.
However recent interest, including the announcement that the Hilton group is to spend £8.5m refurbishing the derelict former Palm Beach Hotel in South Shore, are seen by some as signs of progress.
A more pressing concern, according to Ms Smith, is out-of-town developers who were sitting on vacant properties and waiting for prices to increase.
She said leasing, as an alternative to buying, is working well where new tenants are committed to the business.
“Last year we had a really good season across the board,” she added. “For a lot of smaller businesses especially it stabilised their finances so if we can replicate that again this year, there might be a little more money left to reinvest.”
She said a couple more good years will make a “real difference” in the town, leading to increased property prices as the market picks up.