Hoteliers take a shine to Lights

Charnley Road in Blackpool
Charnley Road in Blackpool
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After the announcement this year’s Illuminations will run for an extra week, David Sharman headed to one Blackpool street to ask hoteliers whether it will boost their coffers.

To weary travellers it must seem like one of the most inviting streets in Blackpool.

The giant sign, suspended high above the canopies of neat hotels, proclaims “WELCOME TO CHARNLEY ROAD” – as if to annunciate every arrival to the comforting beds and hearty breakfasts which dwell beneath it.

But in the age where hotel chains increasingly seek to stamp their mark on the Fylde coast and slippery online reviews can deter dozens of would-be guests in an instant, how have those people who ply their trade in the business of providing shelter for holidaymakers fared in the last year?

And more importantly perhaps, do they believe initiatives such as the new plan to extend the Illuminations by a further week mean prosperity for them in 2013?

For Natasha Riley, owner of the Springfield Hotel, the internet revolution has not gone unnoticed – and it’s paid dividends.

She said: “The last two or three years have been really good.

“It’s more internet based now and people have more of a choice, they can see the quality places.

“We don’t even bother with door trade because people do their homework beforehand.”

She’s also fully in favour of the decision – funded by entertainment giant Merlin – to prolong the Illuminations further into November.

She added: “It’ll prolong the season because last November and the November before that was busy for us, and it’s nice for people to have that option.”

Louise Roberts and Reg Cartwright, who had their first season in charge of the Miramar Hotel in 2012, are also in favour.

However they say there should be more encouragement for tourists to head down the M55 during the dark months which follow the dimming of the Illuminations.

“It’s a fantastic idea,” enthused Louise.

“But I think people should start to open things a few weeks earlier at the start of the season.

“People come in January and February, but there’s nothing for them when they get here.”

Reg added: “Without the Illuminations, Blackpool’s a ghost town.

“It keeps people here longer and it’s better for trade, for us and for Blackpool.”

However, not all believe the week’s extension was the right choice.

Pat Francioni, of the Alumhurst Hotel, said: “I’m not too sure it’s a brilliant idea.

“I think (opposition leader) Tony Williams’s idea for three extra weekends was a better idea.

“I know Graham Cain said we have to get them down to repair them but I don’t necessarily think that’s a good reason to say no to that idea.”

For Pat, keeping the resort in the limelight with high profile events is the key to reviving its past glories.

She added: “We had a better season last year than we had the year before but we had help from The Open golf, Elton John and all sorts of events.

“I firmly believe Blackpool is events driven and the more they can get for us, the better.”

But for Philip Kay, who has run the Clevedon Hotel for 27 years and now describes himself as “semi-retired”, the joy of seeing old friends and regular customers from years gone by provides the main motivation for opening his doors.

He said: “We only take people we know now and we don’t advertise anywhere.

“They’ve tried extending the Illuminations before and I don’t think it will work.

“If you extended them at the start it could possibly bring people in so it’d be better at that end.”

While they may not all share the same viewpoint, the phrase on the lips of everyone in this tight community of hoteliers is the same – “only time will tell.”