BUS trips to Bolton are booming with the number of coach parties visiting the town rocketing to more than 1,000.

And one southern-based bus firm has seen the number of people coming on trips to Bolton rise from just 10 in 2011 to an expected 225 this year. Favourite destinations include Bolton Market, The Octagon Theatre, Bolton Museum and Art Gallery, the Fred Dibnah Heritage Centre and Ena Mill in Atherton, a grade-II listed building with 100 retailers, a cafe and a restaurant.

Official figures show about 1,000 coach trips came to Bolton last year, with more than 300 to Bolton Market, a yearly increase of almost 25 per cent.

Tours range from day trips to longer breaks covering places like Manchester. And the town’s tourism bosses organised a trade exhibition to further boost the bus trip boom.

The Group Buyer Roadshow, which was held at the Reebok Stadium, attracted travel, hotel, hospitality and retail businesses. It aimed to build on the success of last year’s promotion of Bolton using the “football, fish and chips and Fred Dibnah” theme.

One of the organisers, Tasos Pattichis, owner of the Olympus fish and chip restaurant in Great Moor Street, said: “Despite the economic problems, there are many good things happening here with many people working really hard to put Bolton on the map.”

Steve Reed, of Hampshire-based Steve Reed Tourism, organises themed trips across the UK.

He said: “This is building on the success of last year’s Bolton work. We first started working with the Olympus in 2011 with 10 coach parties.

“Last year I organised 65 coach parties and this year I expect to organise at least 225. It’s grown amazingly.

“Each coach brings 50 people, meaning 50 purses and wallets full of money to spend. That’s a lot of money.

“Fred Dibnah is one attraction and other visitors love the mill outlets or markets.”

Bolton Council said a wide range of businesses and venues worked together to attract new visitors.

Cllr Cliff Morris, leader of Bolton Council, said: “The group party market is very important to Bolton and we know events like the Bolton Food and Drink Festival are a major attraction for group visits from across the country.”