TOURISM chiefs are hoping for a bumper year with the launch of a unique resort pass to boost visitor numbers to Blackpool’s attractions.
The town – which has been given a £100,000 grant by Visit England to launch the Resort Pass in February – will be the only one in the UK to offer the ticket, which is similar to those sold for attractions in Florida.
Tourism bosses hope the pass will help increase the number of people booking overnight accommodation – a key challenge for the New Year.
The move by Marketing Blackpool follows a successful pilot project in 2012 which saw a link up between Merlin and the Pleasure Beach with a pass that gave people admission to five attractions for £52.50.
Merlin said it sold 10,000 Resort Passes last year and now Blackpool Zoo, the Sandcastle and the Model Village are getting on board with the scheme.
The seven-day pass will be sold online.
It is hoped it will encourage more people to stay overnight in Blackpool.
Natalie Wyatt, managing director of Marketing Blackpool, said: “2013 will be all about promoting the Resort Pass.
“In 2012 we have increased visitor numbers but ultimately trying to increase overnight stays is the main priority. It will be a seven day pass, offering good value for money, which should encourage people to stay for three or four nights. The whole idea is about using the attractions as a hook, promoting events and spreading the benefits wider.
“It will be unique for the UK.”
Iain Hawkins (right), boss of the Merlin attractions in Blackpool, which include The Tower, Madame Tussauds, the Sealife Centre, and the Blackpool Dungeon, said: “We all have to work together and getting more attractions on board with the Resort Pass is very exciting for 2013.
“It will make Blackpool stand out above all the resorts in the country by offering a ticket like the Florida passes.
“But we also have to make sure we give people a quality experience and that is why at Merlin we will be refreshing what we offer visitors.”
Merlin is proposing investment to the Sealife Centre and Madame Tussauds. Other investment in Blackpool in 2013 will include a new £5.25m Wallace and Gromit ride at the Pleasure Beach, a new ape house at Blackpool Zoo and improved infrastructure at the Sandcastle.
The latest visitor figures available show 11.89m people visited Blackpool between January and August 2012, up from 10.57m in 2011. But while in 2011, 56 per cent of summer visitors stayed at least one night, in 2012 that fell to 42 per cent.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: “2012 has been a fantastic year for Blackpool. The new trams have proved a massive success and despite the terrible weather in the summer, thousands of people enjoyed concerts on the new Tower Festival headland. The challenge over the next 12 months will be to build on what has been a very successful few years for Blackpool.
“We can’t wait for our first big event of the year, Showzam, which will kick start another huge year for Blackpool.”
Hoteliers said it was vital to build on the success of 2012, and make sure people returned.
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “I have a bit of fear and trepidation for 2013 because we are still in a recession.
“But if we did a good job in 2012, hopefully those people will come back.
“Good weather could make a massive difference, and the Resort Pass is key to encouraging more to stay overnight.”
Gary Pretty, chairman of the Blackpool Combined Association, said: “We have to do something to make people stay. I would like to see more attractions joining the Resort Pass, and perhaps it could be expanded even further so people could add in a show or maybe tram tickets as well.”