May 27 2021
Philip Welsh, Head of Tourism and Communications at Blackpool Council, writes about the return of tourism to the area and the Council’s decision to provide free coach parking.
It is around 5pm on Day 1 of Step 3 of the Government’s roadmap – and Blackpool’s famous Golden Mile is buzzing.
The shops, cafes, attractions and souvenir stalls on one of the UK’s most iconic stretches of seafront provide a dazzling backdrop for the visitors who are out in numbers.
It is a far cry from those dark winter and early spring days when a national lockdown left our tourism industry mothballed for the third time within a year.
During that time, a combination of stop-start lockdowns and tier restrictions pushed many of those businesses to the brink.
But today feels so much different. The sight of families strolling down the Promenade taking in the sights and the sounds evokes a real sense of optimism.
A few hundred yards further down the coast, a coach has pulled on to a hotel forecourt to allow its passengers to disembark for a few nights of freedom.
It is an uplifting sight – and confirmation that Blackpool is definitely back!
When that first lockdown was announced in March 2021 it seemed at first that it would be a short spell of disruption. But as the weeks drifted by it quickly became apparent that our businesses, many of them almost wholly dependent on a summer season, were in it for the long haul.
From June last year, we established a group with a single focus on recovery – doing the things that would help our tourism businesses and associated supply chains survive the worst upheaval ever encountered.
By the time the Prime Minister had set out his roadmap in the early part of this year, we were ready to announce a £1m investment plan to kick-start our visitor economy.
A two-month extension to the Illuminations season to give businesses the opportunity to recoup some of the financial losses they had already suffered though the wiping out of the Easter holiday was central to that plan.
Over the coming weeks and months, it will be complemented by additional destination marketing, events, a much enhanced Christmas offer and more targeted measures such as the waiving of coach parking fees on our municipal car parks to the end of the year.
The rationale in providing direct support for coach operators is simple: For decades, Blackpool has enjoyed an enduring relationship with the coach industry. It brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors to the resort each year, contributing millions of pounds to the local economy.
As we move into this post-COVID recovery phase it is crucial that we stand shoulder to shoulder with our tourism businesses whether they be accommodation providers, coach operators, attractions, retailers or the hospitality trade.
By doing that, we are confident we will have a strong, vibrant and sustainable tourism product that can thrive for generations to come. Roll on summer!