The sun is set to rise on a major tourism and education tie-up with the Far East after leaders signed up to sister city status.
VIPs from the resort of Sanya in southern China and from the Chinese Consulate in Manchester visited Blackpool to sign the co-operation agreement with Simon Blackburn, leader of the council.
Members of the Chinese community in Blackpool greeted the delegation with a traditional unicorn dance outside the council’s offices in Bickerstaffe Square, before the VIPs moved on to sign the sister city document.
They then enjoyed Blackpool’s famous sights including the Tower and lunch at the Winter Gardens.
The agreement is set to build on existing business, culture and tourism links between the two resorts and more widely between the UK and China as a whole as Prime Minister Theresa May attends the G20 summit in Hangzhou.
Blackpool has seen an increase in visitors from Asia while the Blackpool Dance Festival has recently expanded to China, where a twinned festival started in Shanghai this summer, bringing £500,000 of investment to the Winter Gardens.
Blackpool’s newest public art feature, The Comedy Carpet, has also recently been showcased at an exhibition at Shanghai’s Power Station of Art, the Chinese equivalent of the Tate Modern, while another of Blackpool’s attractions, Illuminasia is based around Chinese lantern technology and art.
Coun Blackburn said: “It is a huge honour to welcome this Chinese delegation to Blackpool.
“At a time when we are exploring alternative ways to boost our local economy and create jobs, the potential investment that could come from our link-up with China could be vital.
“We have already seen half a million pounds of investment come into the Winter Gardens from selling the rights to the Blackpool Dance Festival and by working with our new friends in China, hopefully there will be much more good news to come.
“It is not just about investment but also about learning from the Chinese community. Their education system is one of the most successful in the world and our schools are already looking at ways that we can make the most of that to give our children at school the best possible chances in life.”
Yue Jin, the executive vice mayor of Sanya said: “This is great time for us to come to Blackpool with your Prime Minister currently in China.
“Sanya has a lot of tourism like Blackpool and we can help and support each other, exchange trade and tourism and create an air bridge from England to Sanya.”