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Tourism put under the spotlight by seaside newspaper's survey

A Lancashire newspaper has published the results of a survey to discover what its readers really think to local tourism.

The Blackpool Gazette conducted the research among residents and tourism workers as well as canvassing opinions of visitors to the Lancashire resort.

The survey covered personal safety in the city centre, the future of the famous illuminations, improvements over past two years, public transport and attractions.

Alison Bott, assistant editor at the Blackpool Gazette, said: “Against the backdrop of a potentially crippling summer The Gazette launched its ‘Season in the Spotlight’ survey to find out the truth about tourism in Blackpool.

“And the results made fascinating reading with both strands of despair and optimism.”

This was the latest research poll conducted by The Gazette, which last month asked readers what they thought of David Cameron ahead of the Conservative Party conference in Blackpool.

Of the 648 respondents, a quarter labelled 2007 as the worse year ever for Blackpool’s tourism industry with dirty streets, rising interest rates, the smoking ban and the resort resembling a building being among the reasons quoted.

Asked how they expected to be faring in two years time, 37 per cent said they feared it would be worse.

Alison said: “The anticipated casino jackpot was a short-lived dream for the city.

“The whole idea was sidelined by just three votes in the House of Lords.

“New incumbent Gordon Brown is said not to favour casinos and for Blackpool, and other towns and cities, there will be no pay out either way in the near future.

“Asked if a regional casino licence would turn around Blackpool’s fortunes, 47 per cent said ‘no’ with 42 per cent saying ‘yes’ while the ‘Don’t knows’ were 11 per cent.

“It has long been accepted there is just too much accommodation available for the numbers who come here.

“A fair number of the rooms and facilities available are just not up to scratch for the demands of today’s – and more importantly, tomorrow’s – increasingly well-travelled public.”

The Gazette revealed at the height of the season how more than 200 hotels, guest house and self-catering apartments were up for sale with a combined market price of more than £50m.

Many had ‘had enough’ and wanted out, others felt they had enjoyed the golden days and it was time to retire.

Alison added: “As this was the second year The Gazette has undertaken this survey, we were able to draw comparisons between 2006 and 2007 to see how views altered and revisit the 10 pledges made by Blackpool’s tourism chiefs at the end of last season on what needed to change for 2007.”

There were some positives to take from the survey – with a new seafront Headlands development and a major revamp for the town’s shopping area.