Suffolk: Experts foresee happy Easter for tourism - despite rain being forecast
The region’s tourism industry is this weekend predicted to thrive as a result of an extended bank holiday and the timely arrival of spring.
Last year’s early Easter halted hopes of a boost for the local economy, with temperatures recorded below zero and some tourists put off braving the cold.
But the forecast for businesses that rely on seasonal trade is a lot more promising for 2014 - and experts now anticipate a prosperous year ahead.
A Visit England survey suggests millions of British holidaymakers will choose to stay in this country for the long weekend - many planning overnight stays in destinations like Suffolk.
Keith Brown, chief executive officer at Visit East Anglia, said: “Our survey also reveals that 6.5m Brits (13%) have already made plans for day trips with another 13m (26%) saying they might get out and about over the Bank Holiday weekend.
“The Easter weekend normally signals the start of the main tourist season and businesses are anticipating much higher visitor numbers than last year which was badly effected by freezing temperatures and in some parts of the region, snow. “The fact that Easter is later this year has meant businesses have also enjoyed good trading in the two weeks of school holidays in the build-up to the Easter break itself.”
Holiday cottage agency Best of Suffolk has seen a 73% increase in the number of guests booking into its growing portfolio of luxury holiday homes this Easter.
The firm was established eight years ago and has since seen consistent year-on-year growth, now offering 270 properties to choose from.
Director Naomi Tarry said: “We look at Easter as the litmus test for what it will be like later in the year. If we have a good Easter, it bodes really well. It’s good for all businesses, particularly those that rely on walk-in trade.
“We believe it will be a very good year for tourism in Suffolk. Our occupancy rates have been extremely good this year, and we are virtually fully booked for Easter.
“Good weather always helps. Last year, Easter came slightly earlier and the weather was not as good.”
Thousands of holidaymakers are likely to head for the 47 miles of beach along Suffolk coast. Among the county’s seaside resorts, Southwold is anticipating a busy weekend. Town mayor Simon Tobin said: “Easter weekend really is the start of the busy tourist period for Southwold and it’s a fantastic opportunity for the town to show how wonderful it is to visit because it is one of the most iconic, unspoilt seaside resorts in Great Britain.”
In West Suffolk, St Edmundsbury and Forest Heath councils are marking the Easter bank holiday by launching an online events diary, westsuffolkdiary.co.uk, with a number of events taking place over the weekend, including West Stow Anglo-Saxon Village demonstrations, a Victorian history experience at Moyse’s Hall Museum, in Bury St Edmunds, and an Easter egg hunt at East Town Park in Haverhill, and Nowton Park in Bury St Edmunds.
Sarah Stamp, heritage, arts and culture chief at St Edmundsbury Borough Council, said: “Spring is truly here and with a host of activities across the borough for celebrating Easter, we are looking forward to welcoming lots of visitors as well as encouraging local people to rediscover some of the activities on their doorsteps.”
National Trust sites also will be open across the region, with special events - including Easter egg hunts - set to take place at Ickworth House and Gardens, Melford Hall and Sutton Hoo.
Last Easter Sunday fell on March 31 and saw temperatures reach only 4C at Wattisham, where morning lows dropped to a biting -4C.
Chris Bell, director of public relations and meteorologist at Weatherquest, said this year’s weather had been comparatively “delightful”, and predicted a good weekend ahead, with some unsettled periods. He said: “Easter Sunday is looking like the most unsettled day. Leading up to that, Good Friday looks dry but a bit chilly, with highs of 11C - that’s right around average for us, but will feel fresh compared to what we’ve become used to in recent weeks.
“It will be dry for most of Saturday, with a small chance of showers developing in the afternoon. It’s also likely to be cloudy but highs will reach 13C.
“An area of rain will be moving up from the south on Sunday. It’s hard to say how much but it will be enough for a soaking in some places. The risk of showers will stay around on Monday.”