Blackpool is at the forefront of post Covid recovery

Blackpool is leading the way towards recovery from lockdown with the biggest percentage increase in footfall anywhere in the UK, newly released figures show.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 10:33 am
Updated Tuesday, 1st September 2020, 10:38 am
A busy beach and Promenade on the August bank holiday
A busy beach and Promenade on the August bank holiday

Research by think tank Centre for Cities shows footfall in the resort is 30 per cent above pre-lockdown levels.

Blackpool is among a number of seaside towns performing well as restrictions on travelling abroad have prompted a surge in UK holidays.

Centre for Cities used tracker data from mobile phones to measure how quickly high streets in the UK’s largest towns and cities are returning to their previous levels of activity.

Coun Gillian Campbell

The data compares the week up until August 11 with pre-lockdown levels and shows seaside resorts performing better than big cities.

In contrast to Blackpool, footfall in Preston it is at 69 per cent of previous levels. Liverpool is at 57 per cent of pre-lockdown levels and in Manchester it is 41 per cent of previous levels, the lowest in the North West.

Centre for Cities chief executive Andrew Carter said: “Blackpool has had a good summer.

“The increase in town centre footfall since June is among the highest in the UK and far exceeds nearby bigger cities such as Liverpool and Manchester.

“Many visitors to Blackpool will no doubt have been drawn in by the good weather and difficulties holidaying abroad this year.

“But winter is coming and the Government should set out a plan for supporting hospitality and retail workers after the summer ends.”

Blackpool Council is extending the Illuminations until the beginning of January in order to extend the tourist season and help to make up for loss of trade at the start of the summer.

Most of the town’s attractions have reopened under restricted measures, with the Winter Gardens due to reopen on September 3.

Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for tourism and culture, said: “We have seen very significant numbers of visitors coming into the resort since the easing of restrictions at the start of July.

“Many of our visitor attractions are operating at reduced capacities because of Covid restrictions but they are reporting high demand and selling out on many days.

“In addition, throughout August, more than 180 Blackpool eateries registered with the Eat Out To Help Out Scheme. Their participation has enabled many residents and visitors alike to further support the local economy whilst dining out for significantly less.

“We are aware of the challenges facing the tourism and hospitality industry, and we have extended our traditional Illuminations season by two months which means they will now run from September 4 through to January 3, 2021 to help our tourism businesses recoup some of the losses they suffered during the spring and early summer.

“Most of our attractions will remain open until December, the Winter Gardens is about to reopen and that means we have a very strong tourism offer over the remainder of the year.

“Some accommodation providers are already reporting strong bookings over September and October.”

Michael Williams, chairman of the Blackpool town centre business improvement district (BID), said the outlook was encouraging.

He said: “The reported figures are consistent with what the attractions and shops are reporting and hopefully, this trend will continue for the rest of the year and increased visitor numbers will be a welcome boost for all businesses in Blackpool.

“The extension of the Illuminations through to January 2021 and the opening of the Pleasure Beach until December will hopefully encourage more visitors to the resort at a time when typically the season has ended.

“The re-opening of the Winter Gardens with an autumn season of live events will also drive footfall into the town centre for the benefit of the early evening economy. ”

Allan Cadman, North West chairman of R3 which represents professionals including insolvency practioners, agreed seaside towns were among the first to bounce back.

He said: “The pandemic appears to have partially reversed the pattern of recent years when the big cities were booming and seaside resorts and smaller towns in decline.

“People appear to be staying local, while foreign travel restrictions and good weather have boosted trade in seaside locations.”