Bournemouth Pier at night

Senior Lecturer in Tourism Management Dr Anya Chapman’s research focuses on resort regeneration projects and on revitalising coastal tourism with an emphasis on piers. Working closely with students has provided Dr Chapman with assistance in her work with national organisations and has enhanced the students’ learning.

The seaside pier is one of the most iconic symbols of the British seaside holiday and, for many people, the epitome of excursions to the coast. Piers have always provided holidaymakers with entertainment, from the grand pavilions and theatres of the Victorian era, to the amusement arcades of the 1980s. For two centuries, piers have been the place to see and be seen at the seaside.

Victorian pleasure piers are unique to the UK, but they are under threat: in the early 20th century nearly 100 piers graced the UK coastline, but almost half of these have now gone. The remaining piers also face an uncertain future, with many risks to their survival including climate change, maintenance issues and fire.

Dr Chapman’s research looks at resort regeneration and how the pier acts as a barometer in a wider socio-economic context – often, regeneration of a pier leads to a revival of the town as a whole.

One of Dr Chapman’s undergraduate students, Liam Richardson, worked with her on his dissertation research about critical success factors for coastal resorts. Since Liam graduated in 2017, the work has evolved into a collaborative project between Liam and Dr Chapman to collect data which will underpin a paper on creating a best practice model for seaside resort regeneration projects. Dr Chapman recently presented their work so far at the ATLAS (Association for Tourism and Leisure Education and Research) Conference in Brighton and received interest in the work from professionals in the tourism industry.

Liam said: “Having Dr Chapman as my dissertation supervisor was a really great experience both in terms of my personal development and in developing the ideas for my dissertation.

“The support I received from Dr Chapman was invaluable because through her contacts I was able to speak to the right people in the industry which made data collection a much smoother process than it might otherwise have been.

“When shaping the study, there was a lot of research out there talking about the decline of seaside resorts and really focusing on the negatives but we wanted to talk about the positives. It was from there that the ideas around critical success factors and ultimately a best practice model came from.”

Looking at the recent impact of her research, Dr Chapman, in her role as Honorary Secretary of the National Piers Society (NPS), has also worked with Penny Mordaunt MP and the Department of Communities and Local Government to develop the Coastal Revival Fund. This helps address the difficulty of accessing funding that many family-owned piers in the private sector face. By working with community teams, pier owners are able to tap into previously inaccessible funding.

Dr Chapman also worked with Blackpool Council in a successful bid for World Monuments Fund Watch 2018 status for Blackpool’s piers – the only place in the UK with three remaining piers. The Watch status is very significant and covers heritage sites worldwide, acting as a catalyst to improve the safeguarding of monuments that need protecting. For Blackpool’s piers, the Watch status focused on the risk posed by climate change because they, like piers across the country, are threatened by tidal surges. Student Research Assistant Stephanie Cremer worked with Dr Chapman to support the bid process, producing data that formed part of the bid document and features in the action plan.

The data that Stephanie produced has also been used for ministerial meetings to inform the government of the threat of climate change to seaside piers. As a result of this work, Dr Chapman is now involved in organising a planned international conference on Climate Change and Seaside Heritage at Blackpool in 2019. She is also leading the scientific committee for the conference.

Not only is Dr Chapman working to create a best practice model for coastal resort regeneration, but she is also helping to protect historic coastal attractions for future generations. Dr Chapman’s work demonstrates that a real impact can be had on the world when academic research, with student involvement, works alongside external organisations.