Newly-released figures show a huge upsurge in visitor numbers over the final part of the year on the back of a two-month extension of the Illuminations season and the most ambitious Christmas campaign ever staged in the resort.
Coun Lynn Williams, Leader of Blackpool Council and tourism portfolio holder, hailed the figures as “a total vindication” of the decision to invest £1m in events and marketing to kick-start the tourism, retail and hospitality industry as it began to emerge from COVID lockdowns and restrictions from May onwards.
Footfall figures for the town centre and Promenade show exceptional increases across all four months of the autumn/winter season.
The Christmas By The Sea campaign ran on the Tower Festival Headland from November 19 to January 3, and included a free skating rink, artificial snowfalls, light projection shows, log cabins, large-scale light installations, and the Star Flyer ride as part of the Winter Gardens Wonderland event.
It resulted in a 75 per cent increase in footfall on the seafront compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.
The additional Winter Wonderland activity around St John’s Square and the Winter Gardens, combined with a heavily-discounted parking offer, resulted in town centre footfall increasing by almost 28 per cent over the same period compared to 2019.
The footfall figures are supported by record amounts of visitor interest recorded on the VisitBlackpool website over the extended Illuminations season with all four months showing huge increases over 2019 (the last full year of tourism activity) and December more than three times the volume of 2019.
There was a similar picture on parking usage during the Christmas campaign with both town centre and Promenade showing large increases in patronage. For most of this period, car parking was offered at a special rate of £1 for three hours across most Council car parks.
Coun Williams said: “We witnessed extraordinary volumes of people coming into the town centre and on to the Promenade over the final part of the year, and particularly during the Christmas By The Sea campaign.
“As we came out of the pandemic restrictions partway through last year, we were determined to put in place a tourism recovery plan that was of sufficient scale and quality to give our businesses the best possible chance of recouping some of the losses they incurred over two years of COVID disruption.
“The overall results are a total vindication of our investment. The Christmas By The Sea event over several weeks on the Tower Festival Headland clearly captured the public’s imagination and gave us the best Christmas visitor numbers we have seen in living memory.
“What we now need to do is work with our partners to not just replicate what we delivered in 2021, but build on what was a remarkable campaign.”
The Council has already announced that this year’s Illuminations season will once again be extended by two months, starting on September 2 and running through to January 2, 2023.
Discussions are also under way with private sector partners, including the newly-established Tourism BID, to look at a return of the Christmas events.
Blackpool hoteliers group StayBlackpool said members were delighted to see the positive results of the significant time and financial investment in the Winter Season of 2021.
Ian White, Chorlton Hotel and StayBlackpool board member, said: “The town and the Tower Festival Headland were amazing and it was brilliant to see the numbers of people around and such a happy atmosphere buzzing around.
“We very much look forward to seeing what Blackpool Council, Tourism BID and BID have in store for the winter season 2022.
“Our members reported a mix of results with some doing really well, particularly at the week ends.
“Other members had already made other plans which challenged any ability to open.
“As we look forward to the year ahead and better understanding the power of a Winter Season we are looking at various opportunities to support our members in marketing and selling their availability.
“StayBlackpool has heavily invested in a new on line booking service as used by VisitBlackpool and Marketing Lancashire and in the last week our members have been offered the chance to be part of a marketing course later next month thanks to the wonderful partnerships with the TBID team. We will also look at other avenues and opportunities to support our members, which will in turn support the local economy.
“The team at StayBlackpool believe 2022 will be another great year, thanks to the efforts and investments of time and money made by the council and so many venues and attractions.
“There have been many hard lessons learned in 2021, we know there will be new challenges we will have to overcome, as we work towards the great year ahead.”