Blackpool tourism to benefit from the '˜Brexit effect'

Tourism chiefs urged traders to cash in on a '˜Brexit bounce' with Blackpool poised to capitalise on Britain leaving the EU.

Wednesday, 22nd March 2017, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 11:11 am

At the official launch of the 2017 season, leaders were told there is a ‘window of opportunity’ to benefit from the rising cost of holidays abroad.

But the council’s tourism chief warned the resort still had lots of work to do to convert day visitors into overnight stayers, which would boost thousands of hoteliers.

Phillip Welsh, Head of Visitor Economy for Blackpool Council said: “Our ability to attract day visitors in their millions is accepted.

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“But as we bring in more and more day visitors at key times we should not evade the challenge of converting more of them into staying visitors.”

A £1m advertising campaign will be launched to promote the resort. But some warned Blackpool Council’s decision to increase parking charges drive away visitors.

Record-breaking sales of more than £1m on the multiple attraction Resort Pass in 2016 show how Blackpool can profit from the ‘staycation effect’

Mr Welsh said: “Tourism indicators including inbound rail passengers, car park usage, tramway passengers, Promenade footfall and hits on the VisitBlackpool website all hit record levels.

“So too did the Resort Pass which showed huge growth over the year with total sales breaking the £1m for the first time since its launch.

“We saw record crowds for the Air Show, Ride the Light and the World Fireworks Championships.”

But Mr Welsh insisted there was no time for Blackpool’s tourist businesses to rest on their laurels, with bumper domestic tourist figures predicted for 2017 as Brexit continues to impact on people’s holiday planning.

He said: “The key to that is to ensure we continue to build on what is already an outstanding tourism product, giving people new reasons to visit.

“Finding new audiences is where we need to be.

“Our ability to attract day visitors in their millions is accepted.

“But as we bring in more and more day visitors at key times we should not evade the challenge of converting more and more of them into staying visitors.”

“The challenge is not to take for granted that Blackpool will automatically benefit.

“No other destination outside London has such a wide portfolio of attractions and a wide range of visitor accommodation.

“It’s that strength we have to play to.

Footfall on Blackpool Promenade increased by more than a third last year during the height of summer.

A total of 955,116 people were drawn to the seafront last August – compared to 700,496 in 2015 – a rise of 36 per cent.

Between April and December 2016 footfall on the Promenade totalled just over five million.

It has risen each year since 2013 when the figure was just over 4.1 million.

VisitBlackpool and the Pleasure Beach will together spend more than £1m promoting the resort through TV, radio and print advertising.

But Mr Welsh believes Blackpool still has work to do if it is to change its image.

He said: “As always we must be mindful of the perceptions of Blackpool and how they can influence people’s choices.

“We found out to her cost how even the most positive TV and PR events can take a turn for the worse if they get in the wrong hands.

“And there have been one or two national media stories which demonstrate there is almost a compulsion at times to portray Blackpool in the least possible light.”

One of the biggest changes to Blackpool’s tourism calendar is the move to stage Blackpool Air Show over a Saturday and Sunday.

The event is this year being held on August 12 and 13, to avoid a clash with the Rebellion festival and in a bid to attract more air display performers.

In previous years the event was held on Sunday and Monday to encourage families to stay in the resort longer during the school holiday summer break.

And tourism bosses are hoping the move will help them attract even bigger crowds.

Mr Welsh said: “Once again it will be free.

“And once again it will be over two days.

“But this time it will be over a Saturday and Sunday, not a Sunday and Monday.

“There are a number of reasons for that.

“It means there is no head-on clash with the punk Rebellion festival which is taking place on the weekend prior in 2017.

“We have taken the opportunity to bring Air Show to a full weekend in the hope we can convince more people to stay over.

“The second reason is down to the programme and when we start to release details of the Air Show programme you will appreciate the benefits of moving to a Saturday and Sunday.

“Given the sheer volume of visitors this event brings to the town we will also be looking at the village of concessions we allow on the headline to see if we can encourage people to dwell a little longer.”