The latest Omnibus survey shows that Blackpool attracted 3.51m adult visits in the May to August period compared with 3.3m over the same period last year.
There was also a substantial growth in the number of overnight stays – up from 1.17m to 1.52m, an increase of 350,000 compared to last year. According to the survey, carried out in almost 5,000 UK households, much of that growth in overnight stays was derived from people attending a specific event in the resort.
During the May to August period, Blackpool hosted a range of high-profile events including Armed Forces Week; the two-day Blackpool Air Show; Rebellion Punk Festival; a 12-week run of the international production of MAMMA MIA!; a stadium concert by Rod Stewart; Ride The Lights and a three-day Illuminations Switch-On Festival Weekend.
The resort also benefited from a £1m “Blackpool’s Back” marketing campaign, a joint venture between VisitBlackpool and Merlin Entertainments, which included the first destination-based TV advertising campaign for several years.
The survey reports high awareness of that TV campaign, estimating that it directly influenced 350,000 visits to the resort.
Cllr Graham Cain, Cabinet Member for Tourism & Leisure, said: “There has been a genuinely positive vibe throughout the summer season and these figures support that. “The dramatic increase in overnight stays is particularly encouraging and that vindicates the investment that we have made in MAMMA MIA! as well as the extensive programme of events put together by VisitBlackpool, culminating in the best Switch-On event in years.
“It also confirms that we were right to invest in a TV and promotional campaign aimed at changing people’s negative perceptions of the resort.
“We have always said that one of our key challenges in the visitor economy was to convert day trippers into overnight stays. The survey shows that has happened to a significant degree.
“What we must seek to do now is maintain the momentum that Blackpool has gained and build on it for the remainder of this year and into 2015.”
The visitor satisfaction figures for the period are also encouraging with 89% of visitors satisfied with their visit, compared to 84% last year.
The single most important reason for visiting Blackpool was again led by Blackpool Pleasure Beach at 20%, with the coastal location at 18% and the range of family-friendly attractions at 15%. The Illuminations Switch-On Festival Weekend was the most visited event among respondents (8%) with MAMMA MIA! second (4%).
The figures for May to August follow a hugely successful start to 2014: between January and April the first Omnibus survey of the year revealed growth of 25% or 600,000 visits compared to 2013.
This means from January to August visits are up by 800,000 compared with 2013. The final survey of the year will include the ten-week Illuminations period and the World Firework Championships.