Visitors to Weston-super-Mare booming

PUBLISHED: 08:00 20 June 2016 | UPDATED: 09:57 20 June 2016

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The number of people visiting Weston from overseas has almost doubled - with a town centre boss crediting Banksy's Dismaland for helping put it 'on the map'.

Banksy’s Dismaland ‘bemusement park’, which took over the Tropicana last summer, brought in tens of thousands of visitors from all over the world.

The mysterious street artist transformed the former lido into a living gallery for five weeks in August and September last year.

This week, new figures obtained by Visit Britain – a part of the British Tourist Authority – showed Weston welcomed 33,000 visitors from overseas during 2015 – a figure which boomed from just 19,000 the previous year.

Overnight domestic visits also increased significantly during 2015, with 50,000 people visiting the town last year for a longer stop – a 25 per cent increase from 2014.

This brought in revenue of £6million, which was again a £1million improvement.

Town centre manager Steve Townsend told the Mercury he was pleased to hear of this improvement and cited Banksy’s masterpiece as the cause.

He said: “It is a very exciting time for Weston and great to hear these figures. I wonder if it is a spin-off of Dismaland – particularly the overseas figures.

“Even though it is not there anymore, it certainly put Weston on the map all over the world.

“But there is also so much other stuff going on such as Dolphin Square and the Winter Gardens – it is a very exciting time for Weston.

“We must remember also that we have Bristol just up the road which has proved to be an amazing city for us.

“It is great to see people are staying here too and I am not surprised. As I look out my window I can see the hotel by the seafront and it is an ideal location for people to stay. “

The figures are at their highest since 2010 when 36,000 people visited the town from overseas. However, in 2011 that number dropped dramatically to 17,000.

But Mr Townsend is hopeful things will now improve year on year.

The £45million Dolphin Square project, in Carlton Street, is well under way and is set to open next year.

The site will include a Cineworld cinema, a range of restaurants and a climbing centre.

In addition, Weston College has now been officially handed the iconic Winter Gardens site, with plans to restore the pavilion and refurbish the ballroom.

The pavilion will make way for a law and professional services academy and a new university centre.

Mr Townsend said: “Work is beginning on the Winter Gardens now as well and I think that is going to be great for the town.

“We will be a university town and will be welcoming more permanent residents too and Dolphin Square will be a huge asset too.

“It is all coming together now and I must praise the council for making it happen. It took a lot of planning but they made it happen.”

Roger Johnson, director of marketing at Visit Britain, said: “These really encouraging figures demonstrate the growing importance of tourism to the local economy.

“Weston, from its magnificent coastline and coastal walks to its beautiful parks and gardens has a visitor experience for everyone.”

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