After a gruelling 18 months battling COVID, beleaguered businesses in Southend are now welcoming the prospect of a bumper end to the summer season with a host of crowd-pulling events.
Shops, restaurants, bars and hotels have worked hard to bounce back following the ending of restrictions.
But now new autumn attractions, including fireworks and parades, have been planned that could see the peak summer season extended this year to lift spirits – and profits.
Seafront firework displays are making a comeback and they promise to be bigger and better than ever.
A Mexican-style Day of the Dead parade will also bring colourful street performers to Southend seafront in October for a carnival in Halloween.
The Women’s Tour cycling event will also hit town in October and is likely to attract hundreds of visitors.
While the year might have started with a whimper it is set to go out with a bang and that is good news for businesses.
Paul Thompson from the Southend Seafront Traders’ Association welcomed an extension to the season. He said: “These events will give a vital boost to Southend’s economy,
at a time where everyone is desperate to get back to normal life.
“I am particularly looking forward to the new Halloween parade,which I believe is a fantastic new event for Southend as a whole.
“With a high street that has failed, it’s great that tourism can still bring visitors into the town. These events will enable tourism to provide the needed boost to our local economy longer into the winter.”
Suzanne Gloyne, Southend BID Manager, said the autumn attractions will be a huge boost for traders and believe it will attract the crowds.
She said: “As restrictions have recently lifted, meaning visitors are once again able to visit Southend and enjoy all of our wonderful amenities, tourism season in the town is set to continue long after peak summer season will be extended with events to help traders
“This is fantastic news for local businesses; the heightened footfall will give them an invaluable boost.”
Ms Gloyne added that Street Rangers will be working proactively on the ground, keeping the town safe “whilst we will continue to organise fun, uplifting events that’ll position Southend as an ideal tourism destination year-round.”
Denise Rossiter, chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, also said events extending into the autumn is a good idea for Southend – but firms need to have their say.
She said “This is all good news for the town but we mustn’t take things for granted.
“If we do get an extended tourist season, as seems very possible, we need to get the borough council working with and listening to local businesses so that we can build long term success for everyone.”
A LEADING businessman has warned Southend leaders they must not get complacent and should ‘pull out all the stops’ to get the town booming.
Adventure Island owner, Philip Miller, said despite the promising turn of events everyone needed to be on the same page.
Mr Miller said: “Without bringing up the most miserable time ever for businesses over the last two years or so, the town and seafront needs
to pull out all the stops to put us back on an even keel.
“All these great ideas and events will help to put it in front of mind when folks are looking to find places to spend their hard earned cash.
“There is a hell of a lot of competition out three all thinking thesame thing and coming up with all sorts to boost their own business.”
He added: “To enable Southend to rise again and steal a march on the others we need everyone’s noses pointed in the same direction as of now.
“The council, high street and seafront traders, hoteliers and police need to make it work. The alternative is desolation. We really need to throw the kitchen sink at it.
“To give Southend a real leg up we could do with a competitive parking strategy, whilst other resorts have either reduced or maintained lower than Southend pricing, our silly old lot put prices up at exactly the wrong time!
“There is talk of a return of the lights/Never Never Land, done properly that might give the autumn a real boost.
“There are the fundamentals that we get so wrong, having enough public loos, clear visitor signage and a good spruce up to keep it looking fresh. The pier could/should be our main attraction but has never achieved that status.”