LANCASHIRE’S leisure sector is booming as visitors and residents choose to spend their hard-earned money in the Red Rose County.
And the popularity of “staycations” has led to hotels like Barton Grange near Preston to invest hundreds of thousands of pounds in their facilities to attract more visitors.
Two thirds of Lancashire hotel and hospitality businesses saw an increase in sales and profits in the last 12-months, according to a major report on the leisure sector.
The annual MHA Hospitality and Tourism Survey shows that 67 per cent of hospitality businesses increased turnover while 64 per cent increased profits. More than half of respondents expect a further increase in profits in the next 12 months.
Almost nine in 10 leisure operators indicated they would be investing in improvements to buildings and infrastructure, while more than half will also be investing in staff training and marketing.
More than 100 regional hotel and tourism operators were interviewed this Spring as part of the research by Moore and Smalley and MHA, a group of UK independent accountancy and business advisory firms.
Colin Johnson, head of the leisure and tourism team at Moore and Smalley, said: “The findings of this research are encouraging and paint a picture of growth and optimism in the leisure sector as the summer season gets underway.
“We mustn’t get carried away though – as there are still many challenges for hotel and leisure businesses to overcome. The full impact of the National Living Wage on profits is still unknown and some business are still to get to grips with auto-enrolment pension legislation”
Daniel Rich, general manager of Barton Grange Hotel: “ I feel that the county is really getting its act together when it comes to understanding its place in the tourism sector.
“Because of the positive developments for Lancashire, overall growth in the leisure and tourism markets and good Hotel performance, it has given us the confidence to invest £670,000 into the hotel as part of a continual development programme.
“Capitalising on the range, uniqueness and quality of tourism and leisure providers in the county is key for sustaining growth in the county; but I see great potential ahead.”
A new visitor economy strategy for Lancashire aims to grow visitor numbers from 63 million a year to 70 million by 2020.
Bethan Johnston, General Manager at the Macdonald Tickled Trout Hotel in Preston, said: “We’ve had a successful year at the Macdonald Tickled Trout, despite the challenging weather conditions in the winter and are continuing to grow through investment and staff development with our future forecasts looking strong.
“We have seen growth in all areas, with a particular boost in the conference market, proving that Lancashire remains open for business.”
Anna Izza of Marketing Lancashire said: “Many things have influenced ‘staycations’ from the economy to the Olympics and more recently the Tour of Britain etc. Events that have been beamed around the world have reminded people of the beauty of our own countryside and coast – inspiring national pride which has spread via family and friends across the globe.”