This week, 22-31 May, is English Tourism Week. To mark the occasion, the region’s coastal tourism industry gathered on Wednesday to celebrate the opening of Littlehampton’s new Loop Watersports centre and The Beach @ Littlehampton café.
Experience West Sussex, which is chaired by Arun District Council’s CEO Nigel Lynn, and All on Board, a watersports project by the Coastal West Sussex Partnership, invited prominent figures including local kitesurfing champion Lewis Crathern, Councillor Jim Brooks, Chairman of Arun District Council, and the Mayor of Littlehampton, Michelle Molloy, for a tour of the site.
Loop Watersports provides tuition in kitesurfing, paddleboarding, wingsurfing and wingfoiling, while The Beach @ Littlehampton was designed to serve the local community as a social hub for groups and activities.
Building had just begun when the Covid-19 pandemic began to take hold. Despite these challenges, operator Jamie Hawkins pushed ahead with plans for the project.
The Council-owned building is now undergoing final interior touches before the café can open, the takeaway service is set to go and the watersports centre is ready to start taking bookings – all in time for the summer season.
Jamie, a former professional windsurfer who won the world championships three times, said: “I always thought it would be a great location for a café so when I heard about the tender for the former beach shelter, for me it was a dream. It was the opportunity for me to combine my passion for watersports with my knowledge of running cafes.
“To be able to run a facility on the beach is awesome and it’s great to be able to cater for watersports fanatics with the lessons but have the café too with it’s fantastic views. We can’t wait for it to be fully open and for people to enjoy everything we have to offer.”
Arun District Council CEO and Experience West Sussex Chairman Nigel Lynn commented: “Littlehampton Seafront is perfect for watersports and this is exactly the type of investment we want to see. I give credit to Jamie and his team for bringing this project to fruition in such difficult times – it encourages us all to look ahead and plan for a bright future. The council has lots of ideas and plans for improving the seafront and this project is a step closer to that.”
Councillor Andy Cooper, Arun District Council’s Chairman of the Economy Committee, said: “This fantastic venue is already sparking interest and I’m confident it will be a real hit once it’s fully up and running, especially in Jamie’s capable hands.
“Having a venture like this on the seafront will be a real boost for Littlehampton and the economy of the town.”
Samantha Smithson, leader of the All on Board project, commented: “The All On Board watersports project has been working for the last two years to champion the coastal area as a major watersports destination hub.
“Littlehampton’s new cafe and centre are sure to draw new visitors to the region, welcoming them to our shore, and will be a great asset to the local community, creating jobs and promoting the benefits of outdoor activities and sports. Watersports are fantastic for anyone looking to try an exciting new sport and gain a more active lifestyle and are of great interest for locals and visitors alike.”
Some key statistics on the visitor economy:
- According to VisitBritain, which leads the English Tourism Week campaign, English tourism generated over £100 billion in 2019 and supported 2.6 million jobs.
- Prior to the pandemic, in 2019, the Coastal West Sussex region saw 14.9 million visitors, with a visitor economy worth £1.18 billion which supported 22,977 jobs.
- In 2019, entertainment accounted for £89 million of direct expenditure in the region, while food and drink was worth £277 million.
- The National Coastal Tourism Academy found that over half (53.5%) of English coastal tourism businesses say it will take more than a year to return to profit.
- The NCTA also found 65% of the businesses are planning to rethink their products or marketing to aid recovery; plans include creating new outdoor products (38%), improving sustainability (38%) and developing new food and drink based experiences (31%).
To learn more about Loop Watersports and The Beach Café @ Littlehampton, please visit: https://www.loopwatersports.co.uk/about-loop
For more information about the Coastal West Sussex Partnership and All on Board, please visit: https://coastalwestsussex.org.uk/promotion/watersports-project-all-on-board/
For more information regarding tourism in West Sussex please visit the Experience West Sussex site – www.experiencewestsussex.com.
For more information about Arun District Council, please visit: https://www.arun.gov.uk/