UK coastal resorts reliant on seasonal holidaymakers face the threat of becoming “ghost towns” as people stay at home during the coronavirus lockdown.

Destinations heavily dependent on the summer peak season fear plummeting visitor numbers in the months ahead, pushing businesses and jobs to the brink.

Many would normally expect a large influx of visitors over the Easter holidays.

But this year will be a different story altogether, warned the District Councils’ Network, which represents councils for many of England’s tourist locations.

Councils are working with businesses on the frontline to help them get by but that more help is needed and are urging government support to avoid “permanent scarring” as a result of the lockdown, and to protect the future livelihoods of workers reliant on busy summer months.

District councils pledged to work to help struggling tourist towns and seaside resorts as people rightly stay at home during the coronavirus outbreak.

Measures include:

  •  Helping businesses stay afloat with administering rate reliefs and distributing grants
  •  Helping families through the benefits system and administering the Hardship Fund
  •  Making sure key council services continue, such as housing advice and homelessness, waste collection and more

But the organisation is calling on ministers to go a step further by ensuring sufficient funding for councils to help local businesses, increasing future high streets funding for all towns, and expanding the Hardship Fund to respond to rising demand and enabling councils to help solve problems.

A short-term emergency intervention now could secure the future of seasonal businesses and save livelihoods, building on the support for local destination management organisations.

DCN lead member for stronger economies, Mark Crane, said: “Some of our finest, most picturesque and beautiful tourist villages and towns, including those rich in cultural importance and heritage, face an unprecedented challenge.

“These are places dependent on seasonal demand in order to survive, which are usually guaranteed large numbers of visitors week in week out, but this year this is sadly unlikely to be the case.

“With people rightly staying away to minimise the spread of infection, this could have a devastating impact on many places that rely on the tourism industry.

“There’s a real risk that if they don’t recover, our tourist towns could become ghost towns. It will also put huge pressure on families suffering lost income and high unemployment.

“District councils know our businesses, our restaurants, our cafes and our attractions, and we know our residents. We are doing all we can to support them, but whatever the time of year our tourist towns will need further help and investment to ride out this storm.”