BLACKPOOL has a world of fun to offer – but it is still the Lights that bring the tourists back year after year.
The latest visitor figures showed the Illuminations was the single most important reason for people to visit the resort during the autumn.
Of the 3.7 million visitors who flocked to Blackpool between September and December last year, 28 per cent said the Lights was their primary reason for visiting.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: “Last year the Illuminations celebrated a 100 year anniversary and recently The Tower was illuminated in all its glory.
“The positive response we’ve had just shows how proud people are of the Illuminations and these visitor figures back up how important they are to the local economy as a key reason for bringing people to town.
“I’m delighted Merlin Entertainments has identified the huge benefit the Illuminations bring businesses in the town by supporting this week extension.”
Iain Hawkins, Head of Merlin Entertainments Blackpool, would not disclose how much it was costing to add the additional week to the Lights, which are funded annually by the council to the tune of £2m, but said: “The Illuminations are a massive driver of visitors to the resort and extending their run can only be a good thing.
“Not only will it help businesses by extending the season but it will also give visitors even more opportunities to visit to see the fantastic lights.
“While everyone else in the UK is shutting down at the end of their season, Blackpool can shout it is still open.”
The move was announced to councillors at a full meeting of Blackpool Council last night.
Tory opposition leader Coun Tony Williams said: “I knew we were right when we negotiated with Merlin to come to Blackpool and I am delighted they have brought this offer forward.
“However as usual this council hasn’t thought this through properly.
“Instead of extending the Illuminations for one week they could have spent the same amount of money having the Lights on for a further three weekends.
“Hardly anyone stays in Blackpool during the week at that time of the year so by switching them on for weekends only, when visitors do stay, they could have provided more help to the town’s traders and hoteliers.”
The latest independent research carried out by Omnibus shows the total number of adult visits to Blackpool during 2012 was nearly 10.4 million, which is 300,000 higher than 2011.
Including children, the total number of visitors to Blackpool is estimated to have been more than 13 million.
The 2013 Illuminations will be switched on on Friday, August 30 and shine until Sunday, November 10.
The move has been welcomed by tourism leaders.
Natalie Wyatt, managing director of Marketing Blackpool, said: “It was a surprise to us when it was decided to extend the Illuminations by a week and we will watch with interest to see what impact this does have.
“Clearly any initiative that encourages people to visit Blackpool is one we are supportive of and I hope this is of benefit to our many businesses, in particular, hoteliers.”
Jayne Mills, of Harts Amusements in Bispham, and an ambassador for the Friends of the Illuminations, said: “It will provide an extra week of trading for so many businesses in this town.
“Not only hoteliers, retailers, restaurants, seafront traders, amusement arcades and attractions but also suppliers such as wholesalers and cash and carry’s will benefit.
“It should also provide an extra week of employment for residents, who rely on seasonal jobs provided by the tourist industry.”
It is also hoped the move will encourage more overnight stays.