Palace Pier boss Luke Johnson marked English Tourism Week with the reopening of the Palm Court Restaurant – described as the spiritual home of fish and chips by chef Heston Blumenthal.
The restaurant, like Horatio’s pub and much of the rest of the Brighton pier, has even undergoing a significant refurbishment.
Mr Johnson, who bought the pier for £18 million two years ago, gave an upbeat assessment of the prospects for the tourism and hospitality sector.
He encouraged investment in people and places, saying: “We’ve spent a lot of money over the past year and I think we’ll continue to to do so.”
This wasn’t just about keeping the pier standing but also about improving what was on offer to visitors.
He spoke after Brighton and Hove mayor Mo Marsh welcomed friends and supporters, including representatives of Visit Brighton, to the reopening of the Palm Court.
Mr Johnson was introduced by pier chief executive Anne Ackord, widely known as Anne Martin, who was previously the long-serving general manager, having joined the pier 14 years ago.
On a cold and windy afternoon, Mr Johnson spoke about the country’s tourism industry and seaside resorts, adding: “Brighton is unquestionably the greatest of those.
“When you come to the seaside there’s a wild natural vigour. You can feel it out there today.
“Seaside resorts have a special place in everyone’s lives.
“We have to keep improving our marketing and get better at recruiting people to come and work in the industry.
“I’ve had a lot to do with tourism here in recent years. It’s a huge employer and a huge foreign currency earner.”
Mr Johnson spoke just over a week after members of Brighton and Hove City Council were told that last year the city attracted more than 11 million visitors.
They were estimated to have spent £886 million and supported the equivalent of almost 16,000 jobs – about 14 per cent of all local jobs.
Mr Johnson said: “Staycationing is a huge opportunity.”
He added: “It’s very exciting coming to Brighton. I remember first coming to Brighton years ago.
“It retains all its raffish charm that it started out with in the 18th century.”
We have to play to our strengths, he said, and while we may not always have the weather, there’s always something going on, with Brighton famous for its creative industries.
The council and Visit Brighton, which is promoting staycations – vacations at home – during English Tourism Week, are putting together a Visitor Economy Strategy.
The top tier at the pier – believed to be Britain’s most popular free-entry visitor attraction – are involved in contributing, in part through their role as a key member of the Tourism Alliance.