Blackpool Illuminations visitor numbers revealed as bosses warn of 'perfect storm' facing resort's tourism industry

The Famous Blackpool Tower and lights along the stretch of promenade known as the Golden Mile in Blackpool
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Blackpool's tourism industry is facing a 'perfect storm' of tough trading conditions this summer.

Driven by bad weather and the cost of living crisis, hotel bosses are warning that free events such as the Illuminations and the Air Show are more important than ever. A Blackpool Council report reveals visitors to free attractions were up last year.

With the cost of living crisis hitting many families and a wet and windy summer well underway, the resort is relying on the showpiece events to drive up visitor numbers. Indicators for 2023 show all three have seen a rise in numbers with Air Show crowds up 41 per cent last August compared to 2022. Footfall for Christmas-by-the-Sea was up 18 per cent in 2023 compared to 2022, while it was up four per cent for the Illuminations.

READ MORE: Blackpool Illuminations 2024 switch-on dates confirmed as Keith Lemon takes part

A council report warns “it is critical that Blackpool continues to promote and market itself as an affordable family holiday destination offering both quality and good value for money”. This means continuing to support free events throughout the year including Air Show, Ride The Lights, Switch-On, World Fireworks, Lightpool Festival, Christmas-by-the-Sea and the extended Illuminations season.

Other events such as the Elmer art trail and the Blackpool Cup youth football tournaments have also helped drive up visitor numbers. Figures from the annual STEAM report, which analyses data from tourism and hospitality businesses, saw visitor numbers pass the 20 million mark in 2022, but data for 2023 will not be available until later in the year. However, the council’s own data shows the following increases in footfall in 2023.

Tourism figures revealed

Footfall at some events was down, including New Year’s Eve Fireworks down 21 per cent and Lightpool down 11 per cent, with bad weather partly to blame. Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said free events were vital especially as the cost of living crisis was hitting tourism more than ever this season.

She said: “There is a perfect storm this year of the cost of living crisis, money people saved during Covid has been spent, the Euros means many families have holidayed in Europe for the football, the election created uncertainty and the weather has been bad. All of this has hit this season and so it is really tough. So the free events are more important than ever to keep bringing people in.”

  • The report is due to be presented to a meeting of the council’s Levelling Up Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, July 18.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter LANCS LIVE NEWS and get all the biggest stories from across Lancashire direct to your inbox