Illuminations success lights up Blackpool

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It started with Alfie Boe and Britney Spears, saw thousands of people pedaling along the Prom and even the BBC Philharmonic got in on the act for this year’s Illuminations.

But this month the Lights were switched off, formally marking the  end of the season.

That’s not to say the resort has shut – many in the tourism industry work year round.

But once more, the Illuminations has played a key role in bringing valuable trade into Blackpool at a time of year when other seaside towns have pulled their shutters down.

Official figures for footfall and visitor numbers are not available yet, but operators are once more hailing the £2m annual lights display as vital to the town.

One early indicator is positive with public donations collected on the Promenade up to £112,866 this year, compared to £109,435 last year and £97,814 in 2016.

Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “This has been an outstanding Illuminations season with probably the biggest programme of events that I can remember.

“We had a spectacular run of firework nights with an additional event bolted on in October; new 3D projection shows on The Tower; a sold-out Nickelodeon SLIMEFEST weekend; the Light Odyssey collaboration with the BBC Philharmonic and another brilliant Lightpool Festival.

“When you add all of this entertainment to the enduring appeal of the Illuminations it gives people compelling reasons to come back year after year and to get out of their cars and explore more of what Blackpool has to offer.”

Some operators said this year the final week of the Lights had been the busiest.

Kate Shane, head of the Merlin cluster of attractions including the Tower and Madame Tussauds, said: “The Illuminations has been strong for us and we had growth over the October half term.

“With schools in different parts of the country having different weeks off, it has been almost four weeks of half term.

“It peaked during the last week of the Illuminations when we had strong growth in volume.

“We saw a lot of visitors from our usual market places and also from the North East and Midlands.”

Helen Mansell, vice-president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said weekends had been good for staying visitors, but it had been quieter during the week.

She said: “Switch-On was great, as was Lightpool, but I think the town lost a bit of a trick during the last week of the Illuminations.

“I had more people staying during the last week then before.

“I think we need to be aware of that in future and make sure all the attractions are open and events are spread out over more than just one half-term week.”

Bryan Lindop, who is in charge of the heritage fleet at Blackpool Transport, said: “The Illuminations were busy and there were times when we struggled to accommodate everyone.

“I’m delighted by the wonderful contribution made by our dedicated volunteers without whom we couldn’t operate.”