Blackpool tourism could take 'three to five years' to get back to normal
It could take between three and five years for Blackpool’s tourism industry to fully recover from the impact of the Covid pandemic.
Venues and attractions are expected to continue operating under restrictions for some time during 2021 once they reopen.
A meeting of the Blackpool Fylde and Wyre Economic Prosperity Board also heard it was vital to rebuild confidence among potential visitors to the Fylde coast.
While this summer is expected to see an influx of tourists, the challenge to sustain tourism and return to pre-Covid levels would be tougher.
Blackpool’s head of tourism Philip Welsh told the meeting the council’s “big private sector partners have taken a hit in terms of income and profitability”.
He added it could be “three to five years before we get back to pre-Covid levels.”
The council has already set out five year strategies for the recovery of businesses in its ownership hit by lockdown including the Winter Gardens, Sandcastle Water Park and Blackpool Transport.
Long term proposals to restore tourism could include a TV campaign, while the new Winter Gardens conference centre is due to open by the end of this year, and construction of new hotels is continuing.
More immediate measures for this year include extending the Illuminations until January 3 and ensuring a ‘compelling’ Christmas offer.
Mr Welsh said while Blackpool could take advantage of pent up demand for UK holidays this year, it would face a challenge next year when pent up demand for international travel could dent domestic tourism.
But the first challenge would be to cope with an expected influx of visitors as restrictions are lifted in coming weeks.
Blackpool hopes to learn lessons from last year when beaches and the Promenade became swamped with litter as crowds headed for the seafront.
Mr Welsh said: “Last year people flocked here and the only thing they could do was bring a picnic or buy a takeaway and sit on the beach.”
Many left their litter behind but action to prevent that behaviour this year will include giving out bin bags to “almost embarrass people to put their litter in a bag rather than leaving it.”
Covid marshalls will also once more be used to help visitors feel safe.
Fylde and Wyre councils are also preparing to help their tourism sectors recover with plans including themed walks to promote rural areas and the use of digital screens to highlight town centre activities.
Fylde will focus on promoting multi-million pound seafront improvements at Fairhaven, while Wyre will highlight its heritage and food and drink offers.
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