Town hall leaders today laid out a fresh vision for the future of Blackpool in the hope of attracting more high-spending visitors and creating around 1,500 new jobs in tourism over the next three years.
The new report, ‘Destination Blackpool’, sets out a list of projects being carried out in the resort in order to take a new “direction” and meet the demands of what council bosses say is a “more aspirational” audience.
Immediate priorities outlined in the report, which is due to go before councillors to debate tonight, include reintroducing 24-hour town centre CCTV monitoring, which was scrapped because of spending cuts two years ago.
It also includes the launch of a new ‘Christmas in Blackpool’ marketing campaign in a bid to bring people flooding into the town over the festive period, and the completion of work to replace steel on Blackpool Tower.
By 2017 it is hoped Premier Inn will be open on the currently derelict Yates’s site in Talbot Square, and that work will have begun on extending the tramway to Blackpool North Station.
Ambitions further ahead for 2018 to 2020 include the launch of the planned new Museum of Blackpool in the Winter Gardens, the first phase of long-awaited redevelopment on the Central Station site and the completion of the next phase of the Talbot Gateway which includes controversial proposals for a four star Holiday Inn hotel.
The opportunity that now beckons is to build on that momentum by continuing to apply a subtle brand repositioning of Blackpool, one that creates a contemporary, family-oriented beach resort that is renowned for the breadth and quality of its visitor offer in terms of attractions, accommodation, leisure facilities, transport links, events and entertainment.
Coun Graham Cain, cabinet member for tourism and leisure on Blackpool Council, said the new blueprint had been compiled “in the face of increasing competition from both coastal and urban destinations.” He added the challenge was for Blackpool to maintain its status as a favourite destination for many people “against a backdrop of a more aspirational family audience, a tangible lack of investment in some aspects of the visitor offer and negative perceptions held by higher spending visitors who are unconvinced by Blackpool’s appeal.”
Coun Cain said 2014 had seen Blackpool turn a corner.
He said: “The opportunity that now beckons is to build on that momentum by continuing to apply a subtle brand repositioning of Blackpool, one that creates a contemporary, family-oriented beach resort that is renowned for the breadth and quality of its visitor offer in terms of attractions, accommodation, leisure facilities, transport links, events and entertainment.”
But he warned there needed to be commitment from both the public and private sector.
Coun Cain added: “Without that commitment Blackpool will continue to dwell on the past instead of looking forward to the future.”
Calls have long been made for 24 hour CCTV monitoring to be reintroduced in the town centre.
Fylde and Wyre Council recently forged a new partnership using volunteers to ensure their CCTV is monitored.
Coun Gillian Campbell, cabinet member for Housing, Public Safety and Enforcement on Blackpool Council, said: “We are continuing to explore a number of different options to reintroduce CCTV monitoring in the town centre.
“As outlined in the Destination Management Plan for Blackpool, 2015-2017, it is our ambition within this period to see these arrangements in place.”
Tourism leaders in Blackpool today welcomed news of a fresh vision.
Iain Hawkins, head of Merlin Entertainments Group in Blackpool, said the report would help to retain the resort’s focus and make the town “a force to be reckoned with.”
He added: “To be honest it is the sort of thing we have been banging the drum for a few years.
“There is no doubt everyone being focused helps.
“It is important everyone is aligned and does everything to make sure the resort ‘sings’.
“For many years Blackpool did not have that focus.
“Priorities were dropping off and no investment was coming into the town.
“There were no international brands here either.
“We’ve set up things like the resort pass and taken out television advertising campaigns. It shows Blackpool has changed and shows the perception has changed too.
“It goes to show everyone is on the same page and makes us a force to be reckoned with.
“I have no doubt other resorts are now looking at Blackpool. Blackpool is back.”
Michael Williams, managing director of the Winter Gardens added: “It is a plan which leads on to the next year and the next year and the next year after that.
“It will ensure everything is as good as it can be to encourage tourism and bring visitors, conferences and events to the resort.
“It is about maintaining visitors we have to ensure they come back time and time again and encouraging new visitors.
“We are just about to announce our summer show for 2015. It shows the confidence promoters have in us. We have a strong line-up.
“From that we have extra visitors and we have had to employ more people. I estimate we will have 1.3 million visitors this year - people who will use bars, restaurants, hotels in Blackpool.
“This plan will help to provide more jobs and act as a catalyst for success.”
Claire Smith of Stay Blackpool said any increase in jobs was “brilliant” news.
She added: “To have an action plan sounds like a fabulous idea. I do not remember having a strategy the town can work towards and having a lasting positive impact.
“These objectives are so important to the town. We have to keep tourism coming. This sounds absolutely brilliant - it is a way we can move things forward for everyone. If it creates all these jobs then absolutely brilliant.”
Key growth areas identified
Key Growth targets include increasing the overall value of the tourism economy to £1.35bn by 2016/17 compared to the current level of £1.3bn (figures based the Steam Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor (STEAM)).
It is hoped to boost the annual total number of adult visits to 10.4 million, compared to 10 million last year, with the ratio of overnight stays during the summer season up to 48 per cent, from the current level of 43 per cent.
The target for employment is for 25,500 jobs to be directly supported by tourism, compared to the 2013 figure of 24,050 (based on STEAM).
The report outlines objectives over the coming five years which are described as “both challenging and aspirational, but eminently achievable.”
2015 – Completion of Yeadon Way maintenance project ahead of summer season;
Opening of four new branded family restaurants within the town centre;
Reintroduction of town centre CCTV monitoring;
Opening of new Blackpool Pleasure Beach Red Arrows-branded SkyForce attraction;
Revitalisation of Blackpool Airport with small commercial flight operations;
Blackpool South and Bispham achieve EU bathing water standards;
Roll out of Blackpool Approved entry level accreditation scheme for hotels and guest houses;
Completion of steelwork replacement, Blackpool Tower;
Conversion of Tower Lounge into family restaurant/attraction;
Development of new marketing brief for Central Station site;
Planning guidance consultation commences for The Crescents/South Prom;
Rejuvenation of Blackpool Illuminations •
Launch of updated “Blackpool’s Back” destination marketing campaign;
Establishment of three-year programme of West End quality shows for Opera House
Development of new Christmas In Blackpool destination marketing campaign.
2016 – Achievement of World Host accreditation for Blackpool;
Installation of variable message signage to improve visitor navigation and parking;
Work commences on Museum of Blackpool, Winter Gardens;
Preparation works commence on Central Station development site;
Creation of 500 additional bed spaces at 3 or 4 star standard in town centre;
Identification and development of additional visitor car parking facilities.
2017 – Completion of budget hotel and family restaurant on site of former Yates’s pub on Talbot Square;
Remaining Blackpool bathing waters reach EU quality standards;
Completion of new elephant house facility, Blackpool Zoo;
Completion of rail electrification, Blackpool to Preston;
Development of new coaching facilities;
Work commences on tramway extension from North Pier to North Station •
2018 to 2020 – Completion of Museum of Blackpool
Completion of first phase of Central Station site development;
Blackpool North station remodelling completed;
Derelict hotel sites on South Prom replaced by new residential and commercial property;
Next phase of Talbot Gateway scheme completed.