Events help boost visitors – despite weather

Visitor figures hit new high thanks to events.
Visitor figures hit new high thanks to events.
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AN ACTION-packed year of major events has catapulted Blackpool’s visitor figures to a new high.

The number of adults coming to the resort in 2012 rose by 300,000 to 10.39 million compared to 10.08 million in 2011.

If children are added into the equation, the total rises to 13.5 million – compared to 13.1 million the previous year.

Blackpool played host to an Elton John concert on the Tower Festival Headland, World Darts Championships, the British Pigeon Show, an-Olympic themed Switch-on and World Fireworks Championship in a bulging 2012 calendar.

And with the global spotlight of the nearby Open Golf at Royal Lytham and St Annes bringing thousands of extra visitors, Blackpool has reaped the rewards.

The figures are from the latest independent Omnibus survey, which is carried out three times a year.

Between September and December, there were 3.7 million adult visits.

Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and culture on Blackpool Council, said: “2012 saw the first full year of the Merlin attractions being open and the launch of the Tower Festival Headland as an event space.

“The weather didn’t do us any favours during the summer months which makes it even more encouraging to see that visitor figures have once again increased.

“Every year more people are coming to Blackpool which is testament to investments made by both the council and the private sector.

“We need to show people that Blackpool has changed and give them a reason to keep coming back.”

The September to December figure also reveals the primary reason for visiting was the Illuminations with 28 per cent of respondents stating that was their single most important reason for coming to Blackpool.

This percentage has steadily increased from 24 per cent in 2009.

Visitor satisfaction levels for the autumn period remain high at 84 per cent.

Tourism chiefs welcomed the latest figures, but said more still needed to be done to encourage people to stay overnight.

Iain Hawkins, head of the Merlin cluster of attractions in Blackpool, said; “Blackpool does seem to be bucking the trend in comparison to other seaside resorts in the UK.

“But we do want people to stay for longer, and this is one of the reasons the town has introduced the Resort Pass this year which gives people admission to a number of attractions.

“You just can’t get to all these attractions in one day.

“And that’s the way we need to drive business rather than relying on day trippers.”

It is not known what percentage of visitors for the full year stayed overnight, but figures for January to August 2012 showed 42 per cent of visitors stayed at least one night, down from 56 per cent in 2011.

Helen Mansell, of the Bamford House Hotel on York Street, and vice-president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said 2012 had been a good season for her.

She said: “2012 didn’t break any records but it certainly held its own.

“I think a percentage of the increase would be down to more day trippers, but all visitors are welcome and everyone contributes to the economy.

“So any increase is really good news and we must build on that for this year.

“I think the Resort Pass is a wonderful idea and needs to be promoted.”

Pat Francioni, of The Alumnhurst Hotel on Charnley Road and who is a director of StayBlackpool, said; “Last season was better than the year before.

“We had the Open Golf at Lytham, and lots of events in 2012 which made people come here.

“I think Blackpool is becoming seriously event driven and the more we can do like that, the more it will help hotels like us.

“This year we are already booking up well for the Punk Festival in August, the World Dance festival in May and June, the Pensioners Parliament and the World Darts.”

The Omnibus Survey is based on more than 4,000 household interviews across the UK.

It produces the adult visitor figures, while a child factor of 0.3 is used to calculate how many children might accompany adults.

But a council spokesman said the figure for adult visitors was the more reliable indicator.

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