Booming tourism biggest employer

THE importance of the tourism industry to Suffolk’s economy was underlined last night after it emerged the number of people it employs has now risen to 27,000.

The news, which comes as the hottest weekend of the year so far looks set to bring a major boost for the county’s attractions, was last night welcomed by tourism chiefs.

And they claim the sector is likely to get even bigger over the coming years – especially with opportunities generated by the 2012 Olympics.

According to a recent study commissioned by the county council, tourism employs 27,000 people, making it Suffolk’s largest industry.

The sector is a key economic driver, worth about �1.63billion a year and bosses are expecting that to grow further in the near future.

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The day-trip business alone is worth �812million – �2.2m a day – and attracts an annual 23million visits.

Last night Celia Hodson, chief executive of Choose Suffolk, said: “These are impressive figures that demonstrate the county’s reputation as one of the UK’s premier tourism destinations.

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“We are continuing to work and we are hopeful that our recent campaigns will further raise Suffolk’s profile and make it this summer’s ‘must-visit’ destination.

“This work is vital to the county’s economic prosperity and the thousands of people who are directly or indirectly involved in its burgeoning tourism sector.

“Suffolk needs to ensure it seizes the employment opportunities and economic generation that tourism can bring.”

The growth looks set to continue – particularly with the opportunities hoped for following London’s Olympic Games, which are expected to be worth about �70m to Suffolk.

Adam Baker, the county council’s project manager for 2012, said: “We can expect about 70% of the tourism benefit to come after the Games.

“London 2012 is a real opportunity. We will be welcoming lots of visitors to the county and we will be able to showcase Suffolk to people from across the world.

“We also have to take advantage of the fact that there will be a huge number of journalists and we will be working in partnership with Choose Suffolk to ensure they promote the county when they return home.”

The latest figures are in a report by Bruce Provan, Suffolk County Council portfolio holder for skills and economic development, to be discussed by the authority at a meeting on Thursday.

Within the tourism industry, the food and drink sector is deemed one of the most important, employing 9,300 people.

Mr Provan said: “Suffolk has much to offer – unspoilt countryside and a breathtaking coastline, iconic buildings, nature reserves, fantastic food and drink.

“We promote Suffolk’s growing reputation for quality food and are helping to create the infrastructure to get local food into London through the creation of a distribution network for the county.”

Local food campaigner Lady Caroline Cranbrook, who lives at Great Glemham, said the food industry was vitally important for Suffolk’s future.

“It provides a lot of employment, particularly in rural areas,” she said.

“It also provides Suffolk with one of its unique selling points in relation to tourism. Suffolk has now become known as a food destination and a place for good food.

“Local food is also incredibly important as an insurance against future shortages. It is very reassuring we have our own food chain.”

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