Blackpool is aiming to reclaim its position as the UK’s premiere conference and events destination with a reinvigorated business tourism offer unpinned by hundreds of millions of pounds worth of private and public investment in new amenities, upgraded accommodation, improved infrastructure and better transport connectivity.
A Blackpool is Booming business tourism campaign launches next week and represents £500m of investment, including in a new convention centre and five hotels.
At the heart of the plans lies a partnership between the Winter Garden’s operators and Visit Blackpool. A £25m conference and exhibition centre will be added to the Winter Garden’s complex and the new public transport system will see more direct rail services into the resort via Preston, together with a new train/tram interchange at Blackpool North Station.
The new investment comes in addition to the regeneration of the seafront and Promenade in recent years, and the completion of a new coastal tram service which makes travel between Blackpool’s most famous visitor attractions quicker and easier than before.
The fresh investment has been made possible by an effective private and public sector partnership in the town, involving commercial operators working closely with Blackpool Council and the Lancashire LEP to secure funding from central government to underpin most of this regeneration.
The new Blackpool Conference & Exhibition Centre will represent a 6,150sqm conference space will be able to host an additional 2,000 people, bringing the total Winter Gardens’ capacity to over 7,000.
Due to be operational in Spring 2019, the conference centre’s opening will coincide with the arrival of three new purpose-built hotels within the resort which have already been granted planning permission with two more awaiting final approval.
If all five hotels are successfully developed, an additional 700 rooms of 4-star or above will be added to Blackpool’s existing hotel stock, including 156 rooms adjacent to the new Winter Gardens development.
Alan Cavill, director of places for Blackpool Council, said: “Over the last five years both Blackpool’s public and private sectors have steadily invested hundreds of millions in improving, upgrading and refreshing the resort’s overall business tourism and leisure offer which helped us to successfully make the case to government for the new £25m Conference & Exhibition Centre.
“This, combined with the proposals for several new high-grade hotels on our doorstep, and the massive transport improvements set to transform the town’s connectivity with the whole of the UK, means soon Blackpool will once again offer a dynamic, diverse and unique delegate experience which will be unrivalled in the UK.”
Michael Williams, MD of the Blackpool Entertainment Company, added: “With an increased capacity, the expanded Winter Gardens complex will be able to bid for more international shows and even bigger expos than we host currently. In addition, we will be actively targeting conferences, exhibitions and events that we previously hosted, but which have since relocated elsewhere.”
Blackpool’s visitor economy is worth nearly £1.4bn, according to the local authorities.