Resort enjoys a half-term record-breaker

The dazzling Illuminasia attraction opened to the public today in Blackpool Winter Gardens' Olympia.'The Terracotta Army
The dazzling Illuminasia attraction opened to the public today in Blackpool Winter Gardens' Olympia.'The Terracotta Army
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Figures revealed today show Blackpool has had one of its best October half-terms on record.

Visitors flocked to the resort to enjoy attractions including the Illuminations - making up for a disappointing start to the 2015 season.

The resort’s trams saw passenger numbers soar by 45 per cent from 570,947 in October last year to 827,064 in October this year.

Blackpool Transport put on extra staff to monitor tram stops at busy times, and used some of its modified heritage fleet to ease pressure on services after complaints last year of overcrowding.

Managing director Jane Cole said: “We went that extra mile to ensure we delivered a fantastic customer experience and put more vehicles out to meet demand.

“The tramway proved to be very popular so we went all out to enhance the journey choices by providing extra Heritage and Illumination Tours to alleviate overcrowding.”

The number of people on the Promenade was up 31 per cent from just over 500,000 in October last year to 655,771 in October this year.

It comes after £2m of government funding from the Coastal Communities Fund was used to launch LightPool which saw light shows projected onto the front of the Tower building as part of the Illuminations.

The October boost made up for a disappointing start to the season when bad weather put many people off visiting the resort.

The figures are among a series of indicators unveiled to councillors this week.

The overall trend for April to October shows a relatively slow start, gradually building by August to reach potentially record-breaking figures during October half term.

The early part of the summer season was blighted by poor weather which had a dampening effect on some weeks in June and July.

As a result, the number of visits was behind compared to last year ahead of the main school holidays.

But by August Blackpool had attracted the highest number of adult visits (1.06 million) for three years, according to the report.

Tourism chiefs say the indicators suggest September and October have been ‘exceptionally busy’ although the official tourism figures, from the independent Omnibus survey, will not be available until the end of January.

Other positive indicators are Tourist information centre visits are up from 13,813 for April to October last year to 91,299 this year.

For the same period, 1.3 million people visited the VisitBlackpool website compared the 930,000 last year.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “While we won’t have the full year visitor numbers until early 2016, all of the autumn indicators show this has been a record-breaking Lights season.

“This illustrates the critical importance of the investment we make in the events programme, in destination marketing and in the annual Illuminations display.

“This year’s October half term has been astonishing and makes up for what was a relatively slow start to the year.

“It is hard to imagine any other resort destination in the UK that is capable of attracting such an incredible number of visitors outside of the summer months.”

Attractions also said they had been packed with visitors.

Iain Hawkins, head of Merlin Entertainments in Blackpool, said the Blackpool Tower Eye, Madame Tussauds, the Sea Life Centre and the Dungeons all set new daily and weekly visitor totals during October half-term.

He added: “The Tower Circus experienced multiple sell outs and the ballroom’s Halloween party had to have an additional party night scheduled to cope with demand.”

Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter Gardens, said: “We’ve had some truly outstanding shows in the Opera House including Jesus Christ Superstar, Lord of the Dance, The Glenn Miller Story, the world premiere of Last Night a DJ Saved My Life and of course, a fantastic eight-week run of Cats.

“All the shows have been very well received throughout the year while Illuminasia had the best weekly attendances of 2015 during October half-term.”

A spokesman for Blackpool Pleasure Beach said: “We have enjoyed a strong end to the 2015 season.

“This has been bolstered by a number of hugely successful events including Vampire Pleasure Beach, our annual Halloween event, our first ever Titanium dance event, and our final Late Night Riding event of the season.

“Many visitors enjoyed the unseasonably good weather throughout the October half term and took the opportunity to ride until 8pm each evening.

“Overall 2015 has been a good season at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, the highlight being the launch of our new Red Arrows Skyforce in May which was celebrated with a display by the Red Arrows.

“This was enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors and residents.”

The Grand Theatre has also seen a 39 per cent increase in ticket sales compared with last year thanks to sell-out shows including ‘The Full Monty’, ‘Thriller’ and Tim Vine.

Chief executive Ruth Eastwood said: “Thanks to the strong choice of programme and the hard work of our staff and volunteers, 2015 has been a great year for the Grand with customers coming from far and wide to enjoy a great night out in Blackpool.”

Other highlights of Blackpool’s busiest October on record

• Council car park usage 20 per cent ahead of last year

• More than 17,000 customers using the Tourist Information Centre compared to 14,000 last year

• Usage of the VisitBlackpool website 25 per cent cent higher than October 2014

• Blackpool Resort Pass sales showing growth of almost 30 per cent

• Sandcastle Waterpark admissions up by seven per cent in October and highest ever revenue generated

• Blackpool Zoo experiencing its busiest October on record, up nearly 20 per cent on last year.

• All Merlin attractions breaking previous records during October half-term

• Illuminasia experiencing its busiest week of 2015 during half-term