Tourism Case Study Blackpool Illuminations

The traditional British seaside resort

The growth of tourism in the UK was largely based around coastal resorts.

Case study: Blackpool

Blackpool is an iconic tourist resort and its coastal location was the main reason for its development as a tourist resort.

Attractions include:

  • the Pleasure Beach - a theme park which is the UK's most visited tourist attraction
  • a sandy beach
  • the Blackpool Illuminations - a spectacular light show during the autumn months to prolong the tourist season
  • concerts and shows

Central Pier, Blackpool

Decline

Like many other UK coastal resorts Blackpool suffered a decline in tourist numbers. This was due to:

  • foreign travel to the Mediterranean growing in popularity in the 1960s and 1970s due to its more reliable hot weather and sandy beaches
  • the expansion of package holidays and cheaper flights
  • the growth of budget airlines and cheaper accommodation from the 1990s onwards
  • overcrowding in Blackpool and a shift in the market to late night drinking, stag and hen parties

Rejuvenation

In 2000, Blackpool launched a £300 million regeneration project. Recent projects to improve the town for visitors include:

  • Brilliance - a town centre lighting scheme which aims to encourage visitors to explore the town centre further at night and during the day
  • tourist attractions - The Big One, Sandcastle Waterpark and Winter Gardens are examples of attractions designed to regenerate Blackpool as a tourist destination
  • Houndshill Shopping Centre - redeveloped to improve shopping in the town centre
  • the beach - sea defences have been replaced with 'Spanish steps' leading down to the sea that will protect the coastline and increase public access to the seafront

5: A century of change in Blackpool

Blackpool’s growth as a tourist town began back in the 18th century. Its first visitors were middle-class holidaymakers to the seaside, but it was the arrival of the railway in the mid-19th century that spurred Blackpool’s rapid expansion, with its population quadrupling between 1851 and 1911 to 125,000. Iconic attractions such as the Grand Theatre and the Pleasure Beach were built in the closing years of the 19th century, and by 1910, Blackpool had 4 million visitors a year, most staying for a few days or a week.

Blackpool owed much of its success as a tourist destination to the Lancashire tradition of wakes week, in which the mill towns would close down for a week in the summer. Each town’s mills shut during a different week, ensuring a steady stream of visitors to Blackpool during the summer, supporting the growth of its tourist industry and the city.

Blackpool retained its tourist base throughout the interwar period. By the 1930s, around 7 million people visited annually. And by 1951, there were over 7,500 more jobs in tourism and entertainment in the city compared to 1911.

But the boom did not last. Between 1951 and 1981, total jobs in Blackpool declined by two per cent, reflecting a decline in sectors including logistics and construction. Despite the advent of package holidays this decline was not led by tourism, which saw its number of jobs increase by three per cent. The nature of the tourist trade did change though: the decline of the textile industry saw the end of wakes weeks; the building of the M55 motorway in 1958 brought about more day trippers than week-long holidaymakers; and the growth of package holidays and later on budget airlines in the 1990s drew tourists away from the seaside and towards the continent.

One of Blackpool’s responses to this decline has been to increase investment in tourism and entertainment, investing in infrastructure and tourist attractions, including a failed bid for Britain’s first supercasino. Despite this investment, and an increase in visitor numbers to 13 million in 2014, there were over 2,500 fewer jobs in tourism and entertainment in 2013 than in 1991.

The city’s population has increased, in part due to a growing reputation as being a cheap place to live. An abundance of guesthouses, which are now much less popular due to changes in tourism, leave their own legacy. During the Second World War hundreds of hotels and guesthouses were commandeered by the government to house civil servants that were evacuated from the bombs falling on London. Now they have become attractive to housing benefit claimants, with implications for welfare dependency. In 2012-13, Blackpool had the highest welfare bill per capita of any UK city.

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