Blackpool’s world famous Illuminations are set to shine for an extra week again next year, The Gazette can reveal today.
This year’s Lights spectacular ran for 10 weeks – a week longer than normal – after entertainment giant Merlin funded an extra seven days in a bid to give the resort a valuable boost.
And delighted council and tourism chiefs today hailed the move a huge success, with the extra week bringing in £10,000 of donations and sending footfall in the town soaring compared to the same time last year.
Now Town Hall chiefs have revealed the extra week will be back in 2014.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for leisure and tourism, said: “I’m delighted to announce the we will be continuing with the one week Illuminations extension again next year. This follows talks with Merlin and very positive feedback from the business community and the general public.
“We were keen to announce the decision well in advance in order to allow hoteliers and businesses to plan ahead and maximise the benefits.”
And a boss at the firm behind some of the resort’s biggest attractions also hailed the extended Illuminations, which saw the Lights stay on until November 10, a huge success.
Iain Hawkins, head of the Blackpool cluster at Merlin said the increase in visitors was “so significant”, it was a “no-brainer” to repeat the extra week next year.
He told The Gazette: “It was fantastic, even during a week when people are back to work, the retail sector and attractions saw a good number of visitors.
“It is a significant increase that we saw year on year. We are really pleased.
“Having spoken to (the council), they were very pleased that they were able to help out and allow us to keep the Illuminations on for an extra week because so many people have benefited from it.
“We didn’t have much time to advertise it this year. Hopefully getting an agreement from the council now will allow us to shout about it for the next 12 months.”
The council received almost £10,000 in donations during the extra week, bringing this year’s total to £125,000.
That is slightly down on last year’s £129,000 - branded an “exceptional” year by the council - but considerably up on 2011, when £119,000 was received.
Mr Hawkins’ calls to advertise the extra week more thoroughly for 2014 was today echoed by traders, who have welcomed the decision extend the Lights again – but said the move had only a limited impact this year. Friends of the Illuminations member and Cranstone Hotel owner Shirley Hunt said more needs to be done to get visitors coming to the area during the week.
She added: “Anything to extend the season for the resort has got to be a good idea from a business point of view, however the midweek trade does need increasing.
“My personal business did not increase midweek. When it was first announced it was great news, while the half-term period was fantastic - but ideally we need a two week half term and that is unlikely to happen.
“I feel some sort of attraction, maybe something at the theatres would help bring people in - of course next year we have Mamma Mia! coming for 10 weeks.
“I am all for extending the season, but we maybe need to get together with the council to give our views on the best solution.”
Chairman of the Blackpool Combined Association Gary Pretty added: “The extra week was a bit of a bonus but midweek it was very quiet.
“My view is that we have two extra weekends as opposed to an extra week, but I don’t know whether this would be difficult for the logistics of taking down the Illuminations after.
“Another option is to bring the switch-on forward a week - that would be another idea.”
Kerry Haddock, licensee of the Mitre pub, on West Street, said: “It was slightly better mid-week for us than normal but it didn’t blow me away. I think people didn’t know about it because it wasn’t advertised very well.”
But Adam Lancaster, who runs the Funky Towers hotel, on the Promenade, said: “It was good when people knew about it.
“The problem was, even though we were trying to push it ourselves, people didn’t realise until just before.
“But obviously it was extra money and it was a welcome addition so if they are going to do it again that’s fantastic - but they definitely need to advertise it.
“Now we can promote it and make sure people know about it.”
The hotel had a few bookings on the Saturday as a result of the extra week of the Lights and Mr Lancaster said he hoped with more time to advertise it next year they might get some longer stays.
Mark Yates, who runs Brooks Collectables, on Waterloo Road, said: “I don’t think there’s any harm in trying new ways of extending the season and giving people a good reason to come to Blackpool and enjoy the facilities that are here.
“Gone are the days when you could work the season and close for four months and survive. I think the extra week was a bit flat for us but it is something we can certainly build on.”
An update on the 2013 Illuminations is due to be given to full council by Coun Cain at a meeting next week.
A report to councillors says: “The additional week of the Illuminations appears to have been well received with some businesses reporting significant increases in trade compared to the same week last year.
“It appears that volumes of people going through the Lights during that week have been comparable with an average September week.”
Illuminate your face
People’s faces will be included in the Blackpool illuminations again next year.
Blackpool residents can nominate a friend, family member or even a pet for the Headlights 2014 display. Coun Graham Cain, Blackpool Council cabinet member for Tourism and Culture, said: “Surprise a family member or friend this Christmas with a unique gift.
“Your Headlight will feature in the 102nd Illuminations display, seen by more than three million visitors each year.”
The Headlights display will run on the cliffs section, opposite the old Miners Home, on Promenade.
For details on how submit a picture, which costs £49.99, visit www.visitblackpool.com/things-to-do/illuminations.