Still vital to our town.
That is the message as yet another Illuminations season has drawn to a close.
The annual display draws in around four million visitors each autumn and is worth £275m to Blackpool’s economy.
This year saw a £100,000 sponsorship boost as companies including Genting Casino and the Elgin Hotel invested in new features.
It is not yet known how much has been collected in roadside donations from the public, but the bulk of the cost of putting on the Lights still comes from the council which puts in £2m each year.
The Illuminations kicked off with another successful Ride the Lights – the now popular curtain raiser.
But there was controversy as instead of the traditional switch-on star, a Star Trek-themed ceremony saw inter-galactic intervention to launch the Lights.
However with entertainment from the likes of Diversity, thousands packed the Tower Festival Headland to enjoy the free show.
Meanwhile a faulty batch of bulbs left some displays in the dark until replacements could be found.
LightPool also returned for a third successive year with three 3D mapping projections shown every evening and the LightPool Village on the Comedy Carpet open both day and night with live music.
Nevertheless tourism leaders today said the annual extravaganza had proved another crowd-puller for the nine weeks from September to November.
Helen Mansell, vice-president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said: “Definitely the footfall, especially on Saturdays, was phenomenal with people trying to park all over the place.
“I think the heritage trams did very well, because a lot of my guests said they had to queue for them.
“In terms of people staying over, at the weekends we were full but it could be a struggle during the week.
“The Illuminations are still key for Blackpool and we have to keep them going at all costs.
“I’m hoping donations have increased and businesses need to make sure they are supporting the Illuminations both financially and in terms of promoting them.”
Gaynor Sedgwick, whose family operates the three piers, said the Illuminations had boosted trade following a relatively average summer.
She said: “The piers are very weather dependent, so the Illuminations are really important to them.
“The last two weeks of the Illuminations were very good and the people have come here and the weather held up.
“Blackpool is not like other seaside resorts, and while other places have closed for the season, the Illuminations keep us going.
“So we have to keep investing in them.
“This year we have put new lights on the Big Wheel on Central Pier, and it has looked amazing. Next year we hope to have lights on both sides.”
Work begins to take down Blackpool Illuminations at the end of another season
Shirley Hunt of The Cranstone Hotel in South Shore, said: “I think the town was really busy during the Illuminations, but I don’t know if that’s a lot of day trippers.
“This hasn’t been one of my busiest Illuminations and even at half term I wasn’t as busy as I have been before. At the weekends, we have filled up last minute.
“But everyone has enjoyed themselves, and this year I’ve had a lot of guests who had never been to Blackpool before and they enjoyed their stay and hopefully will come back.”
Mick Grewcock, who runs the Burbage Holiday Lodge and Queens Mansions in Bispham, said trade this year during the Illuminations “would not break any records”.
He said: “We don’t need to rely on the Illuminations, but they are still very important for the town.
“I have not seen as many coaches going through here in Bispham as you used to see in the old days.
“But we need more investment from the private sector into the Illuminations.
“We put between £2,000 and £3,000 in each year, but we need more of the big boys to get involved as well.”
A spokesperson for Blackpool Pleasure Beach said their Late Night Riding had proved a hit with visitors during the Lights.
He said: “Blackpool Pleasure Beach enjoyed a good Illuminations season and welcomed many visitors to the park.
“Our two Late Night Riding events which took place during this period were hugely popular with guests who enjoyed riding their favourite rides.
“We are looking forward to a very exciting 2018 season which will see the launch of ICON, the UK’s first double launch rollercoaster.”