Don't forget B&B owners in the rush to bring in big hotel names, town is warned
Ambitious plans to bring branded hotels to Blackpool could mean multi-million pound investment in the resort.
But the prospect of widespread new development is not necessarily universally welcomed.
Owners of Blackpool’s traditional guesthouses and b&bs fear they are being squeezed out of the council’s long-term strategy for holiday accommodation.
Conservative councillor Don Clapham sounded the drum for the small operators at the last full council meeting.
He warned that while measures to bring in 800 potential new rooms were positive, the council had to ensure there was a ‘safety net’ for the little guys too.
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, today backed his stance.
She said: “It’s ok bringing 800 new bedrooms to the town, but what about the little people?
“Over supply of accommodation will mean the prices will come down.
“Blackpool’s reputation over the years has been made on the back of its cracking b&bs whose owners go the extra mile for their guests.
“Ok, we have got a lot of poor accommodation, but there are also some fabulous small guesthouses.
“I appreciate we need global brands and I support the development of a new conference centre at the Winter Gardens.
“But we also have to support the b&bs because if they fail, the town fails.
“Even if our visitor numbers go up by a couple of million, they can’t support everyone.
“And if more b&bs are forced to close we will have a lot of shabby properties letting the town down.
“The b&bs are the lifeblood of Blackpool. We go the extra step, above and beyond what you get when you check in with your iPad at a budget hotel.”
Among those aiming to go that extra step are Jose Viana and Shane Lawless who this week will open the Hotel Rouge on Banks Street for its first season.
They have invested around £300,000 in their dream of running a Blackpool b&b.
As our photographs show, the couple have certainly been inspired by their flamboyant style in transforming a formerly rundown property from bland to baroque.
The eight-bedroom boutique hotel represents a change of lifestyle for the pair.
Jose, who is from France, and Shane, from Ireland, have travelled extensively but had no doubt about settling in Blackpool.
Jose said: “We bought the property six years ago and have been upgrading it since then.
“The word that comes to mind is eclectic, it is a combination of all the different influences we have seen through travelling.
“We always wanted to live by the sea and see this as the perfect place.
“In the six years we have been here, Blackpool has changed dramatically, with investment in a new Promenade and the Tower for example.
“Things don’t happen overnight, but we are very confident about the future.
“When it comes to Blackpool I think people want something a bit more personal which is what the b&bs offer, and that is what we are trying to achieve.”
Helen Mansell is approaching her 15th season as a b&b operator, running The Bamford House Hotel in York Street.
Her 13-bedroomed property is within Foxhall Village, one of Blackpool’s most traditional holiday enclaves.
She said: “I have carried out a refurbishment programme through the winter, as have many of my neighbours.
“Don’t get me wrong, I welcome new investment in the town, but I do worry there will be over-saturation.
“There are plenty of visitors on a Saturday night during the Illuminations, or when the Fireworks championships are on.
“But how will they fill all these rooms during a wet mid-week night in January?
“Even with the new conference centre, there won’t be conferences 365-days a year.
“What will happen is these places will discount their prices, and that is a worry for me.
“This is my 15th season in Blackpool and it is hard to make a living.
“Maybe when the police station has moved, and there is a fabulous new attraction on Central Car Park we will draw in another million or so visitors.
“But at the moment, I think it is over saturation.”
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn told the council meeting he believed the town needed more hotels to meet demand for overnight stays due to investments including in a new conference centre.
He told the meeting: “We are talking about 800 high quality bed spaces at a time when we have successfully won funding to build a conference centre that will house some 7,000 delegates.”
A council report said there were 800 potential new hotel rooms in the pipeline.
These include a 140-room Premier Inn on the former Yates’s site in Talbot Square where work is due to begin before the end of May, and a five star 90-room hotel above the Sands venue on Central Promenade which is also due to commence before the summer.
Work has already begun on a site on South Promenade earmarked for a 130-bedroomed Hampton by Hilton, while the council is directly supporting a proposed four-star hotel adjacent to Blackpool North Station which would have 142 rooms. Also in the pipeline are hotels as part of the redevelopment of the former Abingdon Street Post Office, and on a site alongside the Winter Gardens.
Figures from a council document Destination Blackpool Resort Place-Making 2015-2017 say Blackpool receives a total of 17 million tourism visits (adults and children) annually.
This includes 13.5m tourism visits made by day visitors generating morethan £430m for the economy, and 3.5 million overnight visits generating a total of 9.3 million bed nights and contributing more than £863m to the economy
There is a total bedstock in Blackpool of 69,000 beds.
(Figures taken from the Annual tourism impact research undertaken by Global Tourism Solutions (UK) Ltd for 2013)