Small price to keep the Lights shining

Blackpool hoteliers held a meeting with council staff at the Sheraton Hotel to discuss their grievances over this year's Illuminations

Blackpool hoteliers held a meeting with council staff at the Sheraton Hotel to discuss their grievances over this year's Illuminations

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ILLUMINATIONS visitors could be forced to pay to watch Blackpool’s annual Switch On.

Business owners believe charging a “small fee” is one way the resort can claw back lost revenue which has led to this year’s “dilapidated” and “outdated” display.

It was one of a number of proposals put forward at an emergency meeting between Lights bosses, hoteliers and businesses to save the world-famous display.

It followed claims this year’s extravaganza – which has seen problems with unlit bulbs and fewer displays at North Shore –was the worst the resort had ever seen.

During the meeting, at the Sheraton Hotel on Queen’s Promenade, North Shore, Illuminations chief Richard Ryan admitted there had been problems.

He said: “There were problems in the first week with suppliers, lights were late and when they arrived they were faulty so we had to send them back.

“But the Illuminations have not escaped Government cuts and we did have a cut in this year’s budget.”

Mr Ryan revealed Blackpool’s business collection had dropped by around £50,000 in the last decade.

He added: “In 2001 we received more than £72,000 from Blackpool’s business collection whereas last year we received around £23,000.

“But don’t think the north is no longer loved or cherished, we have spent an awful lot of money on maintenance and repairs the public cannot necessarily see but is vital and had to happen.”

However, Mr Ryan did announce Illumination bosses were in talks with an energy company over a sponsorship deal.

Steve Pye, of the Federation of Small Businesses said social media was the way forward.

He added: “There are millions of people in the UK with mobile phones, we should be using social media as a way to source revenue. People could text in to get a place at the Switch On.

“We are talking about £1 per person but it could bring in millions of pounds.”

Alan Cavill, director of tourism at Blackpool Council, agreed charging a “small fee” was an option being considered.

Mark Smith, of hotel accreditation scheme Yes Hotels, said all local businesses should donate to the Illuminations.

He added: “It is not just hotels who benefit from the illuminations, it is every Fylde coast business with a direct or indirect interest in local tourism.

“If every business contributed one per cent of their rateable value this would yield £1m of income for the lights.”

Other business owners said they would like to see more big business sponsorship, such as the McDonalds and Beaverbrooks Illuminations already seen on the Promenade.

And several traders said they would like to see a nightly switch on and national competitions encouraging children to design tableaux to win the chance to turn on the Lights for a night.

Lorraine Hart, of Hart Amusements, added: “They are for children but we haven’t got any interactive Illuminations.

“We should have a mini Switch On for the kids.”

Local resident John Garnham said it was essential more trams were put on during the period.