Victorian Bournemouth (158)

Victorian Bournemouth (124): Tourist traffic in 1870s

Growth of hotel arrivals’ share


Victorian Bournemouth (124) uses the Visitors’ List Database to chart trends and changes in the resort’s holiday traffic. The database holds names of people arriving at and departing from named venues as published in the local press. While continued investment occurred within the lodging-house market, significant increases in the number of hotels grew their share of arrivals.

Victorian Bournemouth (124): Overall volume trends

Constant increase 1864-1879

In 1875, according to the Visitors’ List Database, the number of parties staying at Bournemouth had increased to over double that a decade earlier. Over 8,000 parties arrived compared to just over 3,500 in 1864. Four years later, the traffic volume had increased once again. The figure for 1879 had reached almost 11,000 parties. Thus, in the 1870s, an average 200 parties per week arrived to take their holiday at Bournemouth. Choice of venue consisted of hotels and lodging houses or apartments. In 1864, Bournemouth’s main holiday hotels consisted of the Bath and the Belle Vue. They sufficed to absorb the visitors’ traffic. Fifteen years later, the number of hotels active in the trade had increased fivefold. The constant construction programme had also grown the supply of private residential properties suitable for the holiday trade. Thus, Bournemouth’s visitor traffic had increased, but so had the town’s ability to accommodate it.  

Holiday seasons develop

1864’s volume had increased each month until it peaked in September, falling back to lower levels for the winter. Traffic continued over that period, supporting Dr Granville’s belief that Bournemouth’s climate could support winter visits. By the 1870s, September remained the month recording the highest holiday traffic, but a change occurred in the overall arrivals’ pattern. The figures for 1875 show a second peak happening in April, after which the line falls back until growing to the September high. In 1879, however, this earlier high point stretched over March, April, and May before falling to lower levels. The September peak occurred. Thus, during the 1870s, Bournemouth appeared to have three seasons. The summer and winter periods remained, but a spring bloom had developed for people in numbers wanting to come before the summer crush. Hence, Bournemouth appears to have developed into a resort chosen by visitors throughout the entire year.

Stay lengths

On an annual basis, in all three years, figures for departures and arrivals did not match. In 1864, departures accounted for 70% of arrivals. Thus, the resort never ’emptied’, visitors staying for several months. A decade later, however, this figure had reduced to 50%. The average stay length appeared to have lengthened. In 1879, departures accounted for 60% of arrivals, indicating that stays had shortened but not to the extent found in 1864. A clear difference occurs for the first four months of the year during the 1870s compared to the 1864 figures. In both 1875 and 1879 departures accounted only for about 35% of arrivals. This compares to 67% for the year 1864. It appears that much longer stays developed early in the year during the 1870s. Hence, by the 1870s, Bournemouth’s holiday trade had reached a more complex stage than perhaps had applied during the resort’s early years.

Victorian Bournemouth (124): Venues

Rise of the hotels

In the late 1830s, the Bath Hotel offered the only accommodation to Bournemouth guests. A second hotel, the Belle Vue, appeared soon. For the most part, however, holiday accommodation took the form of lodging houses or whole property rental. 1864, this type of accommodation absorbed about three quarters of arriving parties. Property developers appeared now to recognise the potential for increased hotel development. Construction of residential property, capable of taking guests, continued, but hotel investment seems to have blossomed. The old duopoly of the Bath and Belle Vue hotels had disappeared as five times as many such buildings operated in the holiday business by 1879. The Visitor Lists show that hotels now accommodated for 42% of arrivals in 1875 and half of them four years later. Thus, the holiday experience changed for many people. Lodging houses no longer constituted the primary choice of accommodation venue.

The old duopoly

1864’s hotel arrivals stayed at one of four venues. Two – the Victoria and the London – accounted for little traffic. Their business lay more with commercial traffic. Also, the Victoria perhaps depended as much on its bar as its rooms for trade. The Bath and the Belle Vue took about the same number of arrivals: 400-450. In 1875, while the Belle Vue did the same business, the Bath accommodated about 550 arrivals. After this, the Bath came into new ownership. It appears that the hotel may have closed for much of 1879, for, after the early months, it never featured in the published list of venues. Perhaps the new management closed for repairs. The Belle Vue’s volume rose to 800 parties. The Bath in normal operation may have taken its share of these, but somehow the Belle Vue managed its rooms to accept almost double its historic volume.

The new competitors

By 1875, another six hotels competed for business. The Pembroke led the rankings, but not far behind came Newlyn’s Exeter Park, the Lansdowne, Boscombe Spa, and the Highcliffe. Each accommodated between 400 and 550 arrivals. A minor participant in 1875, the Branksome more than doubled its volume during 1879. New entrants absorbing large traffic included The Glen and The Osborne, the latter accommodating over 600 parties. Smaller venues included the Criterion, Queen’s, and the Stewart. Venues showing lower volume in 1879 included the Pembroke and the Lansdowne. Nevertheless, figures by venue take no account of stay lengths. Hence, whereas these hotels may appear to have received fewer arrivals, their guests may have stayed longer during 1879. The Highcliffe Mansions, as its name suggests, grew when several houses merged into one concern. During 1879 it appeared to have a remarkable year, accommodating 1400 parties. It in 1875, the figure read 360.


Victorian Bournemouth (124) has explored tourist statistics to study trends in the resort’s visitor volume. While caution needs to accompany use of these figures derived from the Visitors’ Lists, taken together they appear to transmit a credible picture. Bournemouth’s main business – holiday visitors – continued to increase, showing substantial growth during the 1870s compared to the previous decade. A spring season emerged, a market taken more by the hotels than lodging houses. Large investments in hotel construction appear to have succeeded, since about half of arrivals used this venue format in 1879 compared to a quarter in 1864.


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