Surprised staff at SEA LIFE Blackpool have been inundated with a tidal wave of enquiries for bucket-list-type experiences, such as shark diving, as gift buyers become more adventurous than ever this Christmas.
The popular seafront aquarium reports a big increase in gift voucher purchases and bookings for aqua-related adventures, such as snorkelling with sharks and feeding sessions, compared with the same period last year.
The increased interest is being put down to the popularity of bucket-list type activities on the internet; the growing appeal of unusual gifts driven by websites, such Not On The High Street, along with the impact of social media; and the incredible success of the Blue Planet II TV series.
“Just like Elvis’s famous festive hit, we are going to have a ‘Blue Christmas’ this year,” said general manager Matthew Titherington. “Many present-hunters are turning to the deep blue for inspiration for unusual gift ideas this holiday season.
“There’s a definite trend towards adventure experiences, which enable visitors to get up close and personal with amazing marine creatures, such as sharks, stingrays and groupers.”
Matthew pointed out that more people than ever wanted unusual and memorable gifts, rather than traditional Christmas staples, such as socks, candles and chocolates. He believes the trend is being driven in part by people’s desire to share the pictures on social media.
Much-loved broadcaster Sir David Attenborough’s latest dive into the Blue Planet is also helping to create a wave of interest in undersea-themed Christmas presents, according to Matthew.
“People are looking to give their loved-ones a festive gift with a difference and are being inspired by the popular BBC series,” he added. “We’ve seen a big rise in everything from experience gift vouchers and pre-booked visits to shark-diving or feeding them and even being a shark keeper for the day.
“There’s also an opportunity for groups to ‘sleep with the sharks’ as we offer ‘A Night At The Aquarium’ – special group sleepovers, allowing people to spend the night in our breath-taking ocean tunnel or in front of the captivating ocean window. That’s a very popular gift idea for birthdays and as a Christmas present.”
SEA LIFE Blackpool is home to more than 2,500 spectacular aquatic creatures, including tropical sharks, colourful reef fish, sting rays and sea horses, as well as glow-in-the-dark fish and beautiful illuminating jellyfish, as featured on Blue Planet II.
The aquarium offers a range of amazing close-up experiences, including snorkelling with sharks, feeding sharks or even becoming a shark keeper for the day.
Scott Blacker, head aquarist at SEA LIFE Blackpool, added: “We have been amazed by the increase in the number of people looking to buy one of our special experiences as a present and telling us that it is partly or fully down to the fact their loved ones are such fans of Blue Planet II.
“Our shark snorkelling and feeding sessions are proving particularly popular as gifts and we’ve taken a number of shark keeper bookings as well.”