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Relentless winter knocks Suffolk tourism confidence but future looks brighter

PUBLISHED: 12:39 24 March 2018

Ipswich Waterfront pictured earlier this year covered with a blanket of snow. Picture: EMILY TOWNSEND

Ipswich Waterfront pictured earlier this year covered with a blanket of snow. Picture: EMILY TOWNSEND

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Tourism traders in Suffolk are optimistic for an Easter boost following a stunted start to the year, a new survey reveals.

Boats at Pin Mill hit with an icy blast. Picture: KATIE MERCERBoats at Pin Mill hit with an icy blast. Picture: KATIE MERCER

The study commissioned by Visit Suffolk questioned 135 firms about their performance so far in 2018, and looked ahead to the bank holiday.

The results show confidence levels among the county’s tourism companies have dropped compared to 2017 and are below the national average.

Of the firms surveyed, 83% said they were either ‘very satisfied’ or ‘quite satisfied’ with their levels of trade since January, compared to 93% last year.

Around two in five (41%) reported an increase in footfall compared to 2017. These results are way below last year’s when 63% saw a rise in visitors.

Amanda Bond from Visit Suffolk hopes confidence will pick up once the weather turns warmer. Picture: GREGG BROWNAmanda Bond from Visit Suffolk hopes confidence will pick up once the weather turns warmer. Picture: GREGG BROWN

The findings come as the region begins to see an end to a severe and relentless winter, which brought sub-zero temperatures and treacherous snow storms.

However, as glimmers of sunshine finally start to appear, so have signs of hope within the tourism sector.

The survey revealed 73% of businesses questioned feel confident about their trading prospects during the Easter period.

More people are planning to holiday in Suffolk over the long bank holiday weekend, figures suggest.

Almost 60% of accommodation firms said advance booking rates for Easter were ‘very good’ or ‘good’, compared to 48% last year.

Participants were asked to assess their early performance expectations for 2018 as a whole.

More than half were anticipating a “much better” (12%) or a “little better” (42%) year compared to 2017.

While the results reveal promise, they are still a slight decline from last year’s, when 63% were predicting a boost.

Amanda Bond, brand manager at Visit Suffolk, said: “It’s good to see that Suffolk’s tourism industry remains buoyant despite a pro-longed winter.”

She added: “In general, we are seeing a slight decline in confidence year on year and fall just shy of the national average, yet I’m sure with a spell of good weather, coupled with all the wonderful attractions and natural experiences available to visitors, performance will bounce back.”

The study also asked businesses about their views on the “home sharing” industry such as Airbnb, where residents offer their properties out to holidaymakers.

The results show traders think the benefits, such as boosting the area’s visitor economy, outweigh the potential negative impacts, like increased pressure on infrastructure and anti-social behaviour.

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