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The Development Of Tourism


The Island's tourist industry received an unprecedented boost in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee. "The History of Dumbell's Bank" of 1901 records that 1887 "....throughout the Kingdom was in many respects a holiday year. Needless to say, the Isle of Man came in for its share of these holiday-makers."

A further factor was the establishment, in the same year, of The Isle of Man, Liverpool and Manchester Steam Ship Company, more generally known as The Manx Line, which brought two fine and very fast steamers, the "Queen Victoria" and the "Prince of Wales" into use to the Island. The extra competition resulted in the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company making a very considerable reduction in its fares which forced the "Manx Line" to follow. Steam Packet fares were reduced from 10/6d to 5/- for a Saloon return ticket and a return "Fore-cabin" ticket could be bought for 2/6d. Both companies made losses in 1887 and 1888. At the end of Manx Line's second season it became clear to both companies that they could not co-exist as paying concerns and the Manx Line steamers were purchased by the Steam Packet Co. Additionally in 1887 there was competition from another new company, The Isle of Man Steam Navigation Co., known also as the Lancashire Line, but this company failed in May 1888.

"The History of Dumbell's Bank" placed on record that "....the competition thus engendered, and the holiday-making temper in which the Kingdom found itself, contributed to land upon our shores such vast hordes of visitors that the limit of all our caterers' means was exhausted, inasmuch as railway stations and carriages, police stations, and public buildings, were of necessity commandeered to provide shelter for the travellers".

The passenger arrival figures derived from the imposition of a passenger tax in 1883 show just how dramatic was the increase in arrivals. The figures show 286,418 arrivals in 1883. In 1893 they had increased to 516,359, by 1903 to 711,544, and in 1913, the year before the outbreak of war, they had reached 1,152,048.

The "History" went on, with the benefit of hindsight, to comment that " a consequence, regardless of the fact that the circumstances of the year were entirely abnormal, land jobbers, building speculators, and the like jostled each other in eager haste to buy land and build hotels, restaurants, boarding houses, large and small, until the price of land advanced to fabulous rates, and speculation of all sorts became wild in the extreme". This was the economic background which existed in the 1890s and which had arisen out of the one-off circumstances of 1887/88. A position, broadly similar in some respects, occurred in 1977 when Manx Line Ltd. came on the scene and once more there was over-competition on sea routes. The Millennium Year tourism boom of 1979 followed, although not as a result of the competition, and again a one-off situation existed.

The 1887 tourist boom had lasting effects on coastal Onchan and was responsible for the subsequent development of Howstrake. The entreprenurial spirit which gave birth to the construction of the tramline and roadway to Groudle also took advantage of the ready access to Onchan Head and Bank's Howe which they provided. From that point onwards the influx of tourism into the area and the development of hotels and other facilities was inevitable.

Those who catered for the tourist were characterised by unbounded optimism and enthusiasm. This was very evident in their advertising. The golf links was "....not to be beaten by any in the British Isles...", and was "...the most perfectly laid out course in the Kingdom...". Howstrake Park was "...unrivalled of its kind in the Kingdom...". The Howstrake Camp was "...second to none in the Kingdom...". The Majestic Hotel had the "..finest open air swimming pool in Great Britain..", and so the list could go on. And no doubt those who patronised these amenities, largely from the industrial North of England, and for whom it may have been the first holiday of their lives, would happily believe that everything was just as the advertisements claimed. They had enjoyed a wonderful week, they had been "overseas", and would come again, year after year.