Norman Wallis on Southport’s Retail Renaissance
Tourism and attractions expert, Norman Wallis of Universal Rides, who has ambitious plans for his Southport Pleasureland park’s future, responded to the latest high street retail blow for the town by publicly revealing his plan to Southport grow and flourish.
BHS, Debenhams and Beales may be leaving the town’s retail mix, but there is no reason the buildings they occupied can’t contribute when it comes to creating a new vibrancy for the town that will help reinvigorate the economy. He insists they can still have a viable role.
Says Mr Wallis: “Smaller towns’ retail is no longer suited to larger department store offerings, that, sadly, has been proven time and time again. What that means is we can’t hope that more of the same will work, it won’t.
“We need to look at new ways of bringing these buildings back into the fold with something relevant and useful to contribute. The plan I’ve been developing is around creating a world centre of excellence for tourism here, in Southport.
“The plan, which has already been shared with a number of the town’s key stakeholders, includes the creation of a world-class Tourism Academy. This academy will train tomorrow’s industry professionals so that they are ready to meet the demands of a rapidly changing industry. It will combine vocational teaching with a broad church of hands-on experience in line with what the industry needs to be prepared to face next.
“People’s ideas about the landscape of what makes a leisure experience attractive might change, but its core values remain the same. Fun, escapism, relaxation, feeling a bit special, being looked after, time with friends and family. So, there’s a dynamic at work here, especially as the UK’s biggest industry settles down to life after Brexit, and Southport is particularly well-placed to take advantage.
“All over the world the tourism industry requires excellent staff and key personnel trained in the requirements for an incredibly diverse industry. Tourism requires everything from health and safety to creative and conceptual professionals, digital systems technicians, chefs, marketers, financial people through to mechanical and electrical experts. The tourism industry is literally a world of its own and the diversity of people involved is enormous. There is a huge opportunity to train and become the home of this new generation of industry-specific professionals.
“My plan envisages a multiple-base academy led by education professionals and inspired by industry greats. I’ve already opened dialogue with respected educators and I’m now talking to town leaders about the prospect. The plan needs big buildings. We have them. The plan needs great educators. We’re already speaking to them. And it needs the support of town leaders – and discussions are underway.”
The plan offers huge benefits for the local and City Region economy and has been discussed at the highest level.
He added: “The town has a team of professional and proven destination creators and marketers at its disposal and willing to do everything it can to move forward – the time to do this is now.
“I would welcome a meeting with MPs and Ministers in order to get the best result we can for the town and the economy.”