We are in the frantic Blue Flag and Seaside Award announcement period but what does the Blue Flag recognition actually tell the beach goer and in particular what does not having a Blue Flag or equivalent Seaside Award actually mean.
First of all the Blue Flag Award scheme is a charity and each participating country nominates an organisation to manage the process. In England this is Keep Britain Tidy and each beach application costs the local authority around £700 + VAT. For some authorities with a large coastline this can seem a lot of money but if you look in the long term as an investment then a successful application becomes a very good marketing spend.
An award should be the bi-product of good beach and tourism management. If a region over emphasises on the award marketing rather than the resort marketing, this can mean if you loose the award the effect can be magnified. For example, the Isle of Wight in 2014 heavily promoted the 4 Blue Flag awards as being a marker of a good beach/seaside to visit, now in 2015 as they didn’t apply and thus have no Blue Flag beaches you can clearly see in the search engines the 2014 promotion alongside the 2015 nil result. This does not look good but the reality to the prospective visitor is that the 4 beaches are pretty much still what they were the previous year.
So does an award matter to the beach goer?
Yes, if I go to a major beach within a large seaside town as I would expect the beach to be managed.
This means it would have a clean beach, clean sea, toilets, information boards, seasonal lifeguards, etc. If you then look at the Seaside and Blue Flag award schemes these are the things that a beach is measured on. This would then assume that as a prospective visitor I would look for an award.
This consideration is then multiplied by external factors. For example, a family with small children do want the safety and additional facilities although a family with teenagers are probably more focused on location and a clean beach and sea.
No, if I go to a small fishing village or remote bay.
If I don’t want the major seaside town then as a beach goer I am not so concerned in all the additional facilities. The key element is that I can understand what is or is not available before I head off. This is where websites like the UK Beach Guide help with information on location, facilities, weather and tides.
If we then apply the external factors, these types of beaches become more attractive depending on the circumstances of the visitor. For example, surfers prefer remote and less populated beaches, families with small children need a very basic set and couples could manage with no facilities and to take everything with them.
Thus, at face value the awards do provide value and do influence tourists where they have less access to other sources of information about the destinations. They provide that basic marker in the ground that the beaches and seafront must be to an acceptable level.
To me there is one bigger issue with this whole process. The problem is that the awards are announced too late in the year.
If I am a family a lot of good accommodation is booked early in the year and thus I would need to make a decision before the awards season in the middle of May. This means the decision will be made using the previous years results which themselves were using data from well before then. This means the information being used could well be from 18 months before and where a resort has lost an award because of a quality issue this has meant using the award in the decision process was not worth anything.
Awards are a good indication of what can be expected at a beach or seaside resort but don’t make this the major point in any decision making. We would recommend looking at the resort within something like Google Maps and then if you use streetview you can then travel around the destination and look at what is and is not provided.
All our own beach information pages on the UK Beach Guide have interactive maps, information, facilities, tides and 7 day weather forecasts along with photos and what is in the surrounding area.
Regardless of any award the UK has some of the most exciting and beautiful coastline in the World so forget about awards and just get out and about exploring.