Late twentieth century cultural change and the decline and attempted rejuvenation of the British seaside resort as a long holiday destination: A case study of Rhyl, North Wales
Gale, Timothy John
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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Between 1979 and 1988, the number of visitor nights spent at British seaside resorts declined by 39 million, or 27 per cent (Wales Tourist Board, 1992). Several explanations have been proposed for this relatively sudden downturn in fortunes, ranging from the emergence of competition (within the market for holidays of four nights or more) from overseas resorts offering virtually guaranteed sunshine, to the deteriorating environmental quality of a product built for the nineteenth, as opposed to the twentieth, century. Rarely, however, do these explanations transcend the 'symptoms' of resort decline, to interrogate the 'root causes'. Accordingly, this study interprets the influence of late twentieth century cultural change (to wit, the transition from modernism to postmodernism as dominant cultural 'formations' or 'experiences') upon the production of the tourism resource(s) and place image(s) of Rhyl (a traditional resort on the North Wales coast), as mediated by the local state, with a view to identifying those material and symbolic transformations consistent with its decline and attempted rejuvenation as a long holiday destination. This was operationalised via a reading of Rhyl's townscape and municipal brochure as 'text', for the period 1951 to 1996 (using the analytical methods of iconography' and 'semiotics'), and a form of records analysis known as 'tracking', as applied to the committee minutes of successive local authorities with responsibility for the provision and promotion of the Rhyl 'product', namely Rhyl Urban District Council and Rhuddlan Borough Council (pre and post 1974, respectively). The study's findings were conceptualised in the form of a model, and shown to be consistent with the ontology and epistemology of critical realism (which holds that social reality is not constructed by individuals or science, but by underlying 'generative mechanisms').
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