Rye, like many coastal and popular visitor destinations, is struggling to balance the need to protect its residents from Covid-19, whilst at the same time supporting the local economy which relies on footfall.
A report by the BBC in June spells out very well the issues coastal resorts are having to grapple with. Hastings Borough Council say “continued growth in tourism, which brings in an estimated £266m annually and provides about 5,300 jobs, is central to overcoming the town’s economic challenges”.
And Rye News also faces challenges in raising issues that affect local people (planning, parking, unemployment, increased use of food banks, etc) whilst at the same time supporting local businesses who rely on visitors. For the local economy to pick itself up, Rye needs to welcome visitors, and the challenge for the Rye News team is to reach out to the different groups in the community, focussing on both the positives and negatives.
We know from our reader statistics that Rye News has a high number of readers outside the area, and new readers as well as returners, and it is apparent that many people feel a strong affection for the place – full time or part-time residents, those who have lived in or visit Rye regularly, those with family connections, or visitors who like to keep up to date with the local news.
A view from London
I recently spoke to a London family with children who were unable to take their holiday in Majorca and had instead decided to tour the south coast and take a day trip to Rye and it was interesting to get their perspective as possibly one of a new type of visitor for the time being.
On arrival their first visit had been to Knoops for milkshakes which they said was “wonderful, so much choice, and we bumped into some friends from Clapham who were doing the same thing”. Knoops also has a branch in Clapham.
Next stop, Rye Lodge where they noticed Francesco’s Rye – a pop up pizza restaurant in the front, outdoor area, of Rye Lodge. “It was great, just as amazing as the food in Brixton Market”.
Then a visit to Britcher and Rivers sweet shop in the High Street, where they were served their rhubarb and custards in a fishing net, handed over the counter by a man who they said was very funny and with whom they had a long chat. The only complaint came from their 4-year-old son who asked “why do they have cobbles rather than proper roads so that people could walk properly!”
This is just one example of how Rye might be attracting a new type of visitor, looking for cultural breaks or experiences, independent shops, and who can help the local economy grow – and evidence has shown that people are wanting to holiday in the UK for the time being.
But it seems the current challenge for coastal towns and rural areas (and Rye News) is how to make such visitors feel welcome, support and promote the local businesses, artists and attractions whilst at the same time addressing the needs of the local community – and keeping residents safe.
Communication is the bread of life
Life, and journalism, have changed during the pandemic as events have dried up and people are doing far less, but there are still many issues to discuss and stories to tell. We’d like you to share yours with us, whether you are a resident, a local business or a visitor. As our editor says “we must keep up the flow of articles or we are failing our community because communication is the bread of life and we don’t want to starve”. We welcome your comments, and articles.
Image Credits: Dee Alsey .