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East Anglia: Bumper bookings bode well for holiday season

06:00 14 January 2014

Naomi Tarry of Best of Suffolk.

Naomi Tarry of Best of Suffolk.

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Holiday cottage letting firms across East Anglia are reporting bumper early year bookings, reflecting a VisitEngland survey suggesting a continued rise in “staycations”.

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Naomi Tarry, a director of Best of Suffolk, based near Halesworth, said the firm had just celebrated a “record day of bookings” and was preparing to recruit new staff for a busy summer ahead.

Meanwhile, Norfolk Hideaways, which focuses on north Norfolk lettings, reported bookings for January 19% up on last year, while Norfolk Country Cottages said their figures were showing a 7% year-on-year improvement.

All the firms revealed they had enjoyed a buoyant summer last year and felt customers’ memories of the glorious weather was a factor in the staycations booking surge.

The state of confidence right across the region’s £4.2billion tourism sector will emerge when the results of the Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey are published at the end of March. The firm’s tourism and leisure partner Chris Scargill said: “It is clear from our three-monthly business confidence monitor in the autumn that not every business benefited from the weather last summer.

“Businesses have until the end of January to fill in our annual tourism survey and we would invite them to tell us their individual story.”

The evidence from holiday cottage firms tallies with the VisitEngland survey which reports that 17% of families are more likely to take a holiday in the UK this year because of last summer’s weather.

The figures also showed that, nationally, staycations rose 9% last July compared with the same month in 2012.

Mrs Tarry stressed that it was not just last summer’s weather that was giving Best of Suffolk a lift.

“We have developed a reputation for excellent customer service and if you become known for looking after customers they tend to come back. We have therefore seen significant growth in repeat bookings,” she said.

Penny Richardson, office manager at Norfolk Hideaways, said: “People think if they had a great time last year they will book again.” She said they had been “mega busy” last summer with last-minute bookings promted by the good weather.

Heather McCraith, general manager of Norfolk Country Cottages, said its focused marketing, targeting customers with direct emails, was as important as last year’s weather in the bookings surge.

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said there was a general trend of holiday cottage firms doing well.

“We have seen evidence of the growth in Suffolk as a holiday destination and, as our cottages and apartments stretch from Southwold down to Constable Country and inland all the way down from the Waveney Valley to Lavenham, we really are in a good position to offer something for everyone.

“Our biggest increase has been in the short break market, especially out of season, and we feel this is partly due to customers’ busy lives but also because Suffolk has so many tourist attractions that are open all year round.”

The Larking Gowen survey is seen as a vital tool to influence government decision-makers. Light shed on such key indicators as the level of investment taking place, the influence of social media and confidence in the future also provides information for operators to benchmark their business against others.

Businesses have until January 31 to fill in the survey at www.tourismsurveys.co.uk .

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