First Person: Working together for Blackpool's hotel industry
Ian White, who runs The Chorlton Hotel on Hull Road in Blackpool,has recently joined the board of hoteliers group StayBlackpool.
Here he sets out some of the key issues affecting the resort's holiday accommodation industry including positive changes such as the new 'Blackpool Approved' accreditation scheme.
"StayBlackpool entered 2018 determined to stand up for our members in a far more significant way.
The Blackpool Approved accreditation is a significant part of the turn around, and by getting the scheme to remove 'entry level', a far more positive message is given.
So much so our new external plaques are appearing around town.
The Blackpool Approved scheme is licensed to Visit Blackpool by Visit England.
Both StayBlackpool and the other hotel association Yes Hotels have Visit England trained assessors to carry out the inspections.
I joined the StayBlackpool board with experience working with a community group in central Blackpool.
Members immediately had a new way of communicating via a closed Facebook group, sharing news, supporting each other and so much more.
Many members realised the problems they were experiencing were not unique, and by sharing the information, these issues have been raised at a higher level while support and advice gets shared back to members.
I am more than happy to report some issues have been resolved very quickly in partnership with teams at the council.
I truly believe the small independent hoteliers are the true Blackpool ambassadors, yet they have to share their local communities with beggars, dealers, druggies, probation services offices,
run down neglected properties and other holiday accommodation of the most unfit type.
The police and council contacts I had already built relationships with have been extremely supportive both with my change of role and the larger supply of information.
I have also taken a part in recent planning meetings, highlighting significant issues along the way.
Tackling these issues is the only way to change and with the support of StayBlackpool small steps are being taken.
I have for a long time raised issues about the substandard accommodation which blights Blackpool.
As such we play an active part in the concept that the Blackpool Approved, standard must be a minimum standard across town.
More than that it should be a national standard (with a slight change of name). This will take out a number of the 1,400 surplus bed spaces in the town.
The substandard properties are well fed by the online travel agents (OTAs), particularly those whose policy is to list anyone and everyone.
The argument is 'if these places were so bad, the council would close them'.
Until anything changes, many holidaymakers will come to Blackpool, experience these dire places and leave only to tell their friends that Blackpool is a 'dump' and never return. StayBlackpool is determined to support our members and will keep challenging Blackpool Council again and again to ensure Blackpool maintains its status as Britain’s favourite seaside resort (#Britainsfavouriteseasideresort).
During last year's holiday area consultation a significant number of submissions were presented to the council.
Having read a great number of them the message was loud and clear that the holiday areas are key.
Despite all the amazing attractions, venues, shows and other experiences, if the areas in which visitors stay is neglected they will only return as day trippers. Following the holiday area consultation there was a promise of a working group to investigate those items marked as 'beyond the scope of the consultation'.
This seriously needs to start now.
There is no need for any out-of-town consultants, StayBlackpool and other community groups hold the knowledge and continue to highlight those issues.
Only by working together can we do what is needed to regain the upper hand. It is significant that strong, well managed and protected holiday areas will support their own community of shops and trades people.
Failure to recognise this fact has seen areas like Bond Street, Central Drive, Waterloo Road, Lytham Road become neglected ghost towns compared to their former glory.
We have also been offered some specific training via Planning Aid, so that as we take our place supporting the council and communities where change of use is applied for, so we can give knowledgeable information about the trade backed up with a better legal understanding of planning law.
StayBlackpool is very much up for the challenge and will in a constructive yet firm way, fight for our members and a better Blackpool.
There is so much going on which is positive for our members, as we recognise issues and raise the game.
Where appropriate we will stand tall even at national level and currently have a significant submission lodged with the Competitions and Markets Authority in the Government backed investigation into the actions of online travel agents.
We have also highlighted a significant weakness in planning changes made following the holiday area consultation, and will be playing a constructive role partnering the planning team in holiday area applications
This has all been achieved by listening, supporting members and taking the required actions to show we care. The issues of the town will be best tackled by listening and working with those that want to live the dream but sadly they get overlooked and live the nightmare.
Please do the right thing and work with us, not against us."