Blackpool’s tourism industry has had an early season boost with official figures released today showing more visitors are staying overnight.
The latest official survey, for the first four months of the year, shows more than two million adults visited the resort between January and April.
While the overall total of visits is roughly in line with 2015, more than half of visits included an overnight stay, up from 36 per cent last year and the highest proportion of overnight stays since 2011.
Visitor satisfaction ratings with the resort increased too, with 87 per cent of visitors saying they enjoyed their stay in the town – up from 79 per cent over the same period last year.
The figures are from the UK-wide Omnibus survey based on thousands of household interviews and only count adults.
Other indicators have also revealed growth in the tourism sector.
Sales of the Blackpool Resort Pass have jumped with 2,169 sold between January and April, compared to 1,140 for the same time last year.
The number of unique visitors to the Visit Blackpool website broke records again, with 339,000 people visiting the site in the first four months of the year.
Inbound rail passengers to the resort also increased by 10 per cent while the number of tram passengers soared to more than one million between January and April.
Visitors surveyed cited the town’s coastal location and the Pleasure Beach as their two top reasons for visiting the resort in spring.
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This is a great start to the year for our visitor figures.
“More visitors to the town means more money being spent in our local shops, attractions and hotels – all of which helps to create and support jobs for local people.
“We’ve made huge improvements to Blackpool as a visitor destination over the last few years, with big enhancements to the Tower and promenade, top quality shows performing at the Winter Gardens, world-class family attractions and our first ever Blue Flag beach.
“Blackpool really does have it all!
“With more top shows and family events taking place this summer, including Dirty Dancing and The Sound of Music, as well as the free Blackpool Air Show in August and the Illuminations and Fireworks Championships later in the year, there are lots of reasons for people to join the trend and come to visit Blackpool this year.”
In total, visitors to Blackpool contribute £1.33bn to the local economy, supporting around 24,000 local jobs.
Tony Urmson, customer services director for Yes Hotels which operates an accreditation scheme for Blackpool hoteliers with around 200 members, said he believed investment in the accommodation sector was encouraging more people to stay overnight.
He said although there was still some poor accommodation, many businesses were investing and reaping the benefits.
He added: “The good news is there are a lot of people investing and they are doing well.
“I have seen a lot of guesthouses change hands and the new owners are upgrading them.
“One which we refused accreditation to for three years has had new people come in and is immaculate now.
“Existing owners are also improving their standards and getting accreditation.
“On the down side, a lot of the stays are still one-nights but many of our members have got good bookings for when the season starts and during the Illuminations.
“One member is already full for the whole of the Illuminations, and we have had people saying the phone has not stopped.
“I am keeping my fingers crossed we are going to have a good season.”
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, agreed it had been a good start to the year.
She added: “It has been a really good start to the year and we had an amazing dance festival.
“It seems terrible but I also think that troubles abroad are encouraging more people to take their holidays in the UK including Blackpool.
“However we were busier last June compared to this year, despite the glorious weather we have had.
“I think that is due to outside influences - the EU referendum and the Euros football.
“Hopefully it will pick up again once these events are out of the way.”
A report to the council’s tourism scrutiny committee shows monthly footfall for January to April (9am to 5pm) on the Promenade has increased by 151,000 compared to last year, to 637,229.
The town centre saw numbers up by 340,000 to nearly 3.6 million for the first four months this year compared to last year when measured between 9am and 5pm, although over a 24-hour period, it has fallen to around 4.5m from 4.8million last year and 5.4 million in 2013.
Between January and March this year, nearly 197,000 people arrived in the resort by train compared to just under 179,000 last year.