A HOTEL which has welcomed tourists for more than 30 years has closed down.

Bosses at the Balmoral Hotel in Valkyrie Road, Westcliff, have been hit by the opening of the refurbished Palace Hotel and with more modern hotels in the pipeline for Southend. The owners say they could no longer compete. The hotel closed its doors on Sunday, leaving 14 people without work.

Sinclair Brown, 56, from Thorpe Bay, has been connected with the 27-bedroom hotel for as long as it has operated and bought it from its former owners along with co-owner, David Mead, five years ago.

He said: “We have been forced to close. The Park Inn Palace Hotel killed our trade. Our occupancy rates dropped by two thirds since it opened.

“We had 14 staff, but we were not making enough to support them. Some nights we were offering single £90 a night rooms for £29, cheaper than a B&B.

“We had a receptionist and a night porter. The big hotels have the same, but with a far higher income. We just couldn't go on.”

Mr Sinclair raised concerns that other smaller hotels could be at risk in the town, because of the demand for the bigger chains.

He said: “Small hotels are dead in this town. The banks don’t want to know us any more. They are only interested in the big hotels.

“The Balmoral is a beautiful hotel. I knew the owners who opened it in 1978 and have been associated with the hotel ever since. We spent £400,000 refurbishing it, but now we don’t know what will happen to the building.

“Southend Council has done all it can. We spoke to it about redeveloping it into a nursing home and it seemed supportive with that.”