Five big new hotels coming to Blackpool as latest tourism strategy is unveiled
The value of Blackpool's tourism industry has exceeded £1.5bn for the first time as the resort unveiled its latest vision which puts "City Life on the Beach" at its core.
Blackpool Council has launched its second destination management plan setting out goals for the next three years which it is hoped will boost annual visitor numbers by a further 500,000.
But it also details challenges faced by the town - including competition from the likes of Liverpool and Manchester to attract day-visitors.
The strategy warns the town must strive to improve its reputation for safety and cleanliness, while attracting more national brands to invest.
Investment already under way includes the Winter Gardens conference centre, the tramway extension and the Blackpool Museum, while Holiday Inn, Premier Inn and Easy Hotel are all set to open new hotels in Blackpool in the next two years.
Alan Cavill, Blackpool Council’s director of communications and regeneration, said the resort could "not afford to stand still" and "must continually reinvent itself."
He added: “The proposed programme of work that will be undertaken within the lifespan of this plan represents investment on a scale that has not been seen for decades.
“We are confident this will deliver true and lasting transformational change that will stand Blackpool in good stead for years to come.”
The latest blueprint updates the first destination management plan published in 2015 when the tourism sector was valued at £1.3bn.
This figure has now increased to more than £1.5bn, according to data from Global Tourism Solutions (UK) for 2017, with the economic impact of tourism increasing by 1.8 per cent between 2016 and 2017.
Since 2015, visitor numbers have grown from 17 million to 18 million per year including 3.4 million visits by people staying overnight.
Holiday bedstock in the resort stands at 67,600 with the vast majority (54,000) in hotels, b&bs and guesthouses.
Projects in the 2019 destination management plan include:
Development of the Blackpool Central site into a collection of world-class attractions, including the UK’s first “flying theatre”.
Completion of the new conference centre adjacent to the Winter Gardens.
Opening of hotels including The Boulevard Hotel at the Pleasure Beach later this year, followed next year by the Sands Hotel on Central Promenade, the Premier Inn in Talbot Square and the Easy Hotel on the Prom, and the Holiday Inn at North Station in 2021.
Completion of the tramway extension from North Pier to Blackpool North Railway Station.
Opening of the Blackpool Museum in the Sands Hotel building on Central Promenade.
Other aspirations include promoting positive perceptions of Blackpool including by keeping the town's key public areas litter-free, clamping down on beggars and maintaining Blue Flag status for the beach.
Shortcomings which still need to be addressed include an underperforming town centre which lacks high-end stores, too few national chain restaurants, a weak early evening economy, a lack of investment in the Illuminations and over-supply of sub-standard B&Bs.
The resort also warns of "further competition from the major urban centres of Manchester and Liverpool as day visit destinations."
The plan, developed by Blackpool Council’s tourism arm, VisitBlackpool, says the ambition is to counter this by creating a place with "a contemporary city feel, a vibrant destination."
Progress made since the 2015 destination management plan
A number of goals set out in the first plan have been achieved.
These include meeting EU bathing water standards including securing Blue Flag status for the beach, opening of the Red Arrows-themed SkyForce ride at the Pleasure Beach and completion of steelwork replacement at the Tower.
The Tower Lounge has been converted into a Harry Ramsden's restaurant and a new elephant house has opened at the zoo.
Electrification of the railway between Blackpool and Preston has also been completed.
But some objectives have not moved forward.
The 2015 plan included 'revitalisation of Blackpool Airport with small commercial flight operations'. While the airport is operating, there are no public passenger flights.
It has been hoped the former Yates's site in Talbot Square would be redeveloped by 2017. After numerous delays, work is now well underway.
The 2015 plan anticipated quicker progress on developing the Central Station site. Work is yet to begin, but a £300m leisure scheme was launched last December.