AMBITIOUS new plans to boost Southend as a staycation paradise in the wake of Covid-19 have been announced.

With the hospitality sector being one of the hardest hit with coronavirus, council bosses have now released a blueprint of how they are going to make Southend a go-to destination over the next 30 years.

Their vision - outlined in the document called Destination Southend - include raising the national and international profile of Southend, increasing how much visitors are spending and the length of time they are staying for, and attracting investment and reinvestment into the town.

And after the blow of the pandemic, bosses believe staycations could be “critical” in Southend’s economic recovery.

Joan Tiney, from the Borough Hotel, who is also chair of the Southend Seafront Traders Association, said: “We are seeing more and more staying for a couple of nights.

“People would come to watch a show at the Cliffs Pavilion on Wednesday and stay until Friday, and since lockdown has lifted we’ve had no end of people staying coming in the pub and telling us they’re staying for three or four days at a time.

“We even had people come in having planned to spend a night or two here before jetting off to Spain on a stag do from the airport.

“It’s been really difficult through the pandemic, so I definitely think anything they can do moving forward has to be a good thing. I’m just hoping and praying we come out the other end.”

Data from the report, which is co-authored by the council and the Southend Tourism Partnership, shows a whopping 51 per cent of Southend visitors come to the town for a holiday.

Every year Southend sees 7,450,900 trips, which equates to a tourism value of around £470,822,000.

Backing the plans, Garry Lowen, owner of the Gleneagles Guesthouse, said: “Staycations are something we have been trying to push for. You don’t just have to go to the beach, you can walk along the cliffs for a bit of fresh air, there’s Adventure Island, there’s Hadleigh Country Park not far - Southend offers these fantastic attractions that many areas don’t have.

“We aren’t just a one trick pony in this town.

“That being said, I’m behind anything that will bring more visitors in, especially after the year we have all had. It has been tough.”

However, Martin Richardson, owner of the Happidrome Arcade on Marine Parade, has branded proposals to turn Southend into a staycation hotspot as simply just “hot air”.

He said: “They’ve been talking about making it a staycation town for a long while now. We are and always have been a day-tripping town. In the summer car parks are full by midday and empty by 9pm at night.

“There’s no attractions on the pier and there’s no lights anymore. Let’s fix what we have first before we look for new ventures.”

Suzanne Gloyne, manager of Southend Business Improvement District, said: “Southend is the perfect spot for a holiday whether you are having a staycation or travelling from further afield.

"We have miles of beautiful coastline and beaches and have plenty to keep the whole family entertained with a theme park, arcades and attractions.”

Marc Miller, managing director of the Stockvale group, added: "I think there are some very exciting aspirations in the plan and I look forward in helping push the initiatives forward working with the tourism partnership as I do.

"As a town tourism of it's different kinds all play their part in ensuring future prosperity for businesses and job creation.

"We all need as much help that’s on offer from the council and government. Both are the key to survival and the revival of all sectors connected to tourism, hotels, guest houses, pubs, restaurants, the high street, Leigh, the seafront and finally the council itself which takes a big slice of the cake via the pier and parking revenues - we really are all in this together.

"It’s good the council has a long term strategy, however we also need quick wins to encourage businesses to hang on in there. We all need something to look forward to!"

The report will be considered by cabinet on November 3.