EVENTS including The Open golf championship helped drive up occupancy rates in Blackpool’s hotel sector during 2012.
And now hoteliers say it is vital to keep the momentum going.
Although official visitor figures for the resort show a decline in the number of overnight stays, with the percentage staying at least one night dropping from 56 per cent last summer to 42 per cent this year, many accommodation owners are reporting a successful season.
As reported in yesterday’s Gazette, official figures show a surge in visits so far this year, up to 11.89 million, from 10.57 million for the same time last year.
And many have put the success down to the new attractions – including Madam Tussauds, the Sealife Centre and Tower – run by entertainment giant Merlin.
Mark Wilson, managing director of Sleepwell Hotels which owns the Carousel Hotel on South Promenade, said the venue had had its best year since it opened in 2004.
He added: “We have achieved the highest occupancy levels we have ever had, up five per cent on 2011.
“The Open benefited us and the Illuminations meant we were still maintaining occupancy levels.
“Having Merlin running key attractions is proving good news.
“The new Promenade and tramway shows the town is moving in the right direction.
“But we still need to fill rooms during the leaner times, and I would still like to see Blackpool have a new destination venue for conferences and exhibitions.
“The next step is we need something that’s going to bring 10,000 people in on a weekend.”
This summer’s washout weather – with weeks of torrential rainfall – has not reflected in some hotels occupancy rates.
Nick Testa, manager of the Imperial Hotel on North Promenade, said occupancy was up by 10 per cent compared to last year.
He added: “Blackpool has been brilliant this year.
“We have had a lot more families and people are really impressed with the improvements.
“The developments at the Pleasure Beach and with Merlin are bringing people in, and it is great to see everyone working together.
“I would like to see the Illuminations continue for longer in November, and for the town to be lit up for the February half-term.”
Charles Ruppert, owner of the Headlands, Colwyn and Skye hotels in the resort said: “It’s been excellent.
“There’s no change in clients but what’s happened is about two years ago Blackpool had quite a good season and people saw what was going to be done with the trams and the Promenade, so they got the appetite to come back.
“Everybody was absolutely overwhelmed with the trams and the way the Promenade looks now.”
Mick Grewcock, owner of the Burbage Holiday Apartments and Queens Mansions in Bispham, said he planned to re-invest in his properties.
He said: “We’ve done very well with families coming into our larger apartments.
“Our five star ones have been full all the time because people aren’t looking for the cheapest, they’re looking for value for money.”
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group Stay Blackpool, added: “It’s been our best season in four years, all my figures are way, way up.
“The big events like The Open and the magicians convention were massive and it’s all come at a time when Blackpool looks good.
“We have had longer stays, of between three and five nights and even weeks because I don’t think people are going abroad as much.”
But she warned the resort needed to pull in more big events in 2013 in order to keep up the momentum.
She said; “It has been a good year because of the events, but pull those out of the equation and it could be a worry. However visitors are thrilled with the Prom and the attractions so hopefully those people who visited this year because of events, will have been impressed enough to come back.”
However, some hoteliers said people were not staying as long which was a concern.
Marie O’Rooney from Homecliff Hotel, in Carshalton Road, North Shore, said: “We didn’t seem to get that many people in Blackpool and we didn’t have as many people coming for a week as normal.
“People just seemed to want to stay for the weekend.”
Pat Francioni, of the Alumnhurst Hotel, on Charnley Road, added: “We have had quite a good year but people are not staying as long.
“A couple of years ago we wouldn’t have accepted a one night booking during the Illuminations, but now we do.”