Tourism leaders back Blackpool

Merlin Conference at the Hilton Hotel, Blackpool North Shore. From left, Jade McKellar (general manager-Sydney Aquarium), Iain Hawkins (head of Blackpool Cluster), Elizabeth Zorat (general manager-Sea Life Bennalmadena), Luis Rocha (general manager-Sea Life Centre Jesolo), Aldo Vigevani (divisional director, Gardaland Resort), Janine DiGioacchino (divisional director Midway USA) and Adrian Jones (general manager, Legoland Florida).
Merlin Conference at the Hilton Hotel, Blackpool North Shore. From left, Jade McKellar (general manager-Sydney Aquarium), Iain Hawkins (head of Blackpool Cluster), Elizabeth Zorat (general manager-Sea Life Bennalmadena), Luis Rocha (general manager-Sea Life Centre Jesolo), Aldo Vigevani (divisional director, Gardaland Resort), Janine DiGioacchino (divisional director Midway USA) and Adrian Jones (general manager, Legoland Florida).
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BLACKPOOL is moving closer towards matching top destinations like Orlando in the tourism stakes – although there is still some way to go.

That was the view of bosses visiting the resort from all corners of the globe – including Florida – this week.

Attractions managers working in the sunshine state as well as Las Vegas, Hollywood and New York have been in Blackpool for operator Merlin’s two-day annual conference.

Fond

The global entertainments giant, which this year opened the Blackpool Tower Eye, the Blackpool Dungeon and Madame Tussauds in the town, has brought 270 people representing 80 attractions in 20 different countries to see the work going on in Blackpool.

Adrian Jones, general manager of Legoland Florida, near Orlando, said: “I’m from Stoke-on-Trent so have very fond memories of Blackpool.

“I have been working in America and have run Madame Tussauds in Las Vegas and Hollywood but the one in Blackpool is the best in my opinion because it’s local to me as someone from the north west of England.

“Nick (Varney, chief executive of Merlin) has talked about Blackpool modelling itself on Orlando. It’s all about quality which has improved now.

“I think there is some way to go in terms of positioning itself around Orlando but from the changes I have seen, Blackpool is becoming more family focused.”

Blackpool looks set for a new link with Orlando thanks to plans by Merlin to build an observation wheel in the US city which would become part of the Eye brand currently made up of the Blackpool Tower Eye, the London Eye and the Sydney Tower Eye.

Jade McKellar, general manager of the Sea Life Centre in Sydney, said the city was looking forward to having a cluster of venues similar to Blackpool.

Jade, whose dad is from Blackpool, said: “The Sydney Eye opened around the same time as the Blackpool Eye and is already proving extremely popular.”

New York-based Janine DiGioacchino, divisional director for Merlin’s midway attractions in the USA, also praised the changes being made in Blackpool.

She said: “A lot of Americans visit London but as Merlin gets bigger I think Blackpool will get itself on the map.

“As Merlin grows, Blackpool’s exposure globally will grow.”

Delegates were based at the Hilton Hotel for the conference with Malaysia, Japan, China and New Zealand also among the countries represented.

Other managers included Elizabeth Zorat and Luis Rocha, who manage Sea Life Centres in Spain and Italy, and Aldo Vigevani, general manager of Gardaland, a huge amusement park in Italy.