Blackpool is hoping to lead a transformation in the UK’s seaside resorts as it gears up for its 100th illuminations switch-on.
Blackpool’s council, alongside VisitBlackpool and attraction providers, have continued to bump up the resort’s offering in recent years but appears to have pushed itself up a notch for the centenary celebration. Currently VisitBlackpool is running a new exhibition in London’s Wellington Arch to encourage visits to the resort, with posters, photographs and more drawn from archives to show its history and construction.
Speaking to Travel Daily recently, Iain Hawkins, cluster head of Blackpool from Merlin Entertainments (owners of SEALife, Madame Tussauds and The Dungeons) praised the council for making sure its iconic buildings stayed open, while also moving ahead with new projects and offering. The bulk of its activity has been to drive more families to the resort but seeing other attractions as part of the promotion rather than just competition.
“We really want to bring families back to Blackpool so that we do not rely on just the stag and hen do markets,” he explained. “The beach is the main attraction but the council has been fantastic in that it had the foresight to get European funding and bring on globally recognised brands to ensure its buildings stay open”.
Hawkins added the resort is “only just starting” to change and he is keen to educate taxi drivers on the region and bring accommodation, the town centre and restaurants up to quality standards to ensure it can increase visitation.
One of Blackpool’s main attractions has always been its Illuminations along the promenade, which draw in three million visitors a year, yet still push forward with innovative designs. People have been given the opportunity to see their own face in the lights with a pop-art design; while its new larger designs will feature work of street artists and Nickelodeon characters will appear thanks to the Pleasure Beach tie-up.
“Nickelodeon Land has been a huge success since we launched the attraction in May last year and to have SpongeBob and all his friends as Illuminations is very exciting,” said Amanda Thompson OBE, managing director of Blackpool Pleasure Beach on the announcement. “The Illuminations are a national treasure and we are delighted to be involved”.
Likewise the Illuminations Switch-on has become an event in its own right, with X Factor winners Little Mix to headline the event this year with Amy MacDonald, Lemar and Lawson. Around 20,000 free tickets have been released for the event at the end of August, with registration closing on 21 August.
Keep an eye on Travel Daily UK in the coming weeks for a full interview with Ian Hawkins.