The future of Exmouth seafront could lie in vegan breakfasts, soya lattes and boutique accommodation.
A champion of the great British seaside town, Wayne Hemingway said Exmouth must attract Millennials and Gen Z for the final phase of seafront regeneration.
Exmouth seafront needs to draw in a new, younger demographic keen to splash the cash, a packed public meeting was told.
Wayne, employed to come up with a vision for the seafront, said building a boutique hotel for overnight beach stays on the final phase site was necessary – an accommodation experience currently unavailable in ‘old-fashioned’ Exmouth.
Speaking at a public meeting in Exmouth on Thursday evening, Wayne said the seafront regeneration success relied on the Millennials – under-35s – and Gen Z, under 25s, and their disposable incomes.
He said the final phase site, adjacent to The Maer, cricket and bowling clubs, lawn tennis, walks, barbecue area, the being-built watersports’ centre, food court, outdoor bar, open-air films, kids’ play areas, cafes – all encompassed in natural beauty, and so close to a sandy beach – was ‘eminently sellable’.
Wayne said: “What you’ve got there is absolutely perfect.”
He added: “It’s absolutely sellable to a generation who will make this place a generation of families, from the age of fifty, who are used to doing this kind of thing, to Gen Z, down to kids. But it also shouldn’t alienate old people as well. It’s all about traditional values.”
Wayne said: “The day of big-ticket indoor leisure attractions are absolutely old fashioned and there’s a new generation coming through that want something more natural.”
He said the new watersports’ centre, when finished, would bring in Millennials and Gen Zs from further afield.
Wayne pointed to the Bumble and Sea café, at Orcombe Point, as an example of the ‘quality’ Exmouth should strive for to attract younger visitors to the seafront.
“You can actually get a soya latte and those things matter. They absolutely matter,” said Wayne. “I don’t drink coffee but I want an oatmeal hot chocolate in the morning. I don’t want milk and there are many people who do that for ethical reasons or health reasons.”
“We found that the café in the ideal and best location in the town is the Harbour View Café.
“Nice people that run it, nice family, but the product is not going to take this town anywhere and neither is the building. I am saying it like it is.”
And he called out the town on its ‘old fashioned’ accommodation, saying contemporary options were needed for younger visitors.
He said building a boutique hotel would prompt existing hoteliers to increase their standards and offer better accommodation.
Wayne added: “Our experience is they won’t raise their game without other places nudging them up.
“You are going to need something that starts to nudge them to raise their game.
“The last thing I want to do is stay in the Premier Inn when I come to the seaside. It’s boring. It’s serviceable and clean and you get your breakfast, but it’s hardly inspirational.”
He added: “I work all over country. In Morecambe, the Midland Hotel is a hotel that you want to go to sleep in – that you want to have a romantic night with your wife in. You haven’t got that.
“The new demographic that’s going to come to the watersports’ centre is going to need something less corporate than the Premier Inn.
“They are not going to want something as old fashioned as the other offerings here.
“It’s going to need to be something interesting, boutique-y, that fits with the coastal feel, that feels organic and that, importantly, serves vegan breakfasts, and just feels in touch with the modern world.
“What I do urge you to do is to do something that is architecturally intelligent, that is modern, that is sustainable and that doesn’t look to the past. That’s a vital thing that you mustn’t do.”
Town councillor John Humphreys was among those to address the meeting during the public speaking part. He said: “It’s the future of not our generation, bit our younger generation.
“If we stand still as a seaside town, we will die.”
- CLARIFICATION: Wayne Hemingway has asked us to point out that he did not equate any of his ideas to the survival of Exmouth seafront. We are happy to make this clear and apologise if any confusion was caused.