Blackpool tourist chiefs were fuming at VisitBritain after one of their officials claimed the seaside resort was not being “pretty” enough.
Sabine Kalkmann, who represents VisitBritain and VisitEngland in Germany, made the remarks in an email to ex-Blackpool businessman Julian Allitt asking why more was not being done to promote the north’s coastal resorts.
“Blackpool does not have the reputation to be a particularly pretty seaside resort,” she said.
“We want to make the potential visitors want to visit Britain and there are certainly nicer seaside resorts.”
The remarks are the last thing Blackpool operators would expect to hear from a senior official tasked with supporting the development of the UK’s tourist destinations.
Claire Smith, president of hoteliers group StayBlackpool, said it was unfair if the city was being snubbed by Europe for not being “as pretty” as other destinations.
She added: “We’re not the Lake District and you don’t come here for quiet walks. That’s not what Blackpool is about. But for a unique experience, fabulous entertainment and great fun, I don’t know where else you would go.”
Figures from VisitBritain show in 2016 there were 70,000 overseas visits to the city, with overseas visitors spending almost £25m, up from 44,000 in 2015 when overseas visitors spent £17m.
A spokesman for VisitBritain was quick to pedal back and stress that Kalkmann’s remarks were not their own views, and they described the town as “iconic and fun-filled” adding that recent investment and “the growing diversity of year-round activities on offer are putting Blackpool firmly on the map as a destination, demonstrated by the increasing numbers of overseas visitors.”
Coun Gillian Campbell, deputy leader of Blackpool Council, said: “It is worth noting that in VisitBritain’s own league tables, Blackpool is the most visited seaside destination in the UK. The investment that is currently being made in new attractions, hotels and transport infrastructure can only strengthen Blackpool’s position as the nation’s favourite resort.”