Monday, February 17, 2014
3:45 PM

Rain, floods and storm surges have not dampened Suffolk’s buoyant tourism trade, with industry leaders predicting the county will enjoy another busy year.

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Despite the wettest January on record, tourism bosses and business owners have claimed trade is brisk, with bookings still pouring in.

Keith Brown, chief executive for Visit East Anglia, said it was also possible the staycation market could even be bolstered by the flooding and downpours, with people choosing to stay close to home in case the weather turns.

Although he sounded a note of caution that a “week can be a long time in tourism” Mr Brown said advance bookings in the self-catering market – one of the industry’s barometers – had been very positive.

He added: “If you look at the self-catering market – both holiday parks and the cottage rental business – they’ve all reported a very strong start to the year. It’s a very good sign that people are booking and getting their prime spot in prime East Anglia destinations. The big operators and the small operator are saying it’s been a very good booking period so far.”

Mr Brown said: “Weather affects every country, I think when you look at other holiday destinations, whether it’s Florida and the southern USA or Europe, they too are having issues, so it’s not exclusive to us here.”

Speaking ahead of the release of the results of the annual Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey, which is expected to contain more positive news about the region’s £4.2billion industry, Mr Brown said Visit East Anglia was keeping a careful eye on any “potential drawbacks” caused by bad weather.

But he added: “I think one impact might be people stay a bit closer to home in case the weather does go bad, so they can return home quickly. But that’s no more than has happened for the past couple of years.”

Alex Paul, director of sales and marketing at Gough Hotels, which owns the Angel Hotel in Bury St Edmunds, the Salthouse Harbour Hotel in Ipswich and Southwold Pier, said they had seen further growth.

He added: “The first quarter for the hotels has been very positive. November through Christmas and January, we are seeing growth year-on-year. The corporate business is also good in the hotel, which is a good sign of a growing and confident economy. As far as the pier is concerned, January year-on-year was excellent, because for the last two years we’ve had snow.”

Mr Paul said consumers appear to be continuing the trend of booking quite late but demand remains strong.

He added: “It’s definitely positive.”

George Bradley, general manager of cottage holiday agency Suffolk Secrets, said despite the weather the company saw two record days for bookings in January, with figures well ahead of the same time last year. Even bookings for next week’s half-term holiday are said to be ahead of February 2013, with families undeterred by forecasts of more rain.

Mr Bradley said: “There are so many great attractions on the coast and inland that people know they will have a terrific holiday whatever the weather.”

He added: “It seems that Suffolk has a loyal and committed fan base, and these people are going to come here for their holidays no matter what.

“A substantial number of our customers have holidayed with us before, with many having originally visited as children, now returning with their own families. These people love Suffolk and it’s going to take more than a few storms to put them off.”

Peter Osborne, general manager at the White Lion in Aldeburgh, part of the T A Hotel collection, said people were leaving it late to make a decision about short breaks because of the flooding, but the self-catering side of the business – Aldeburgh Bay Holidays – was performing well.

He added: “Our Aldeburgh Bay Holidays has done really well. People are thinking ‘We’ve booked a cottage, we’re going with three families, and we’re going anyway’. Whereas with one or two night stays people are more cautious.

“The year has started really well. Last year was a great year, more of the same this financial year and we’ll be OK.”

A spokeswoman for Thorpeness Country Club, also part of T A Hotels, said trade was “stronger than previous years.”

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