Bumper Easter trading weekend expected in Suffolk and north-east Essex
Tourism bosses last night said they were confident of a bumper Easter weekend in Suffolk and north-east Essex after issuing a bullish assessment of the region’s economic prospects.
Business leaders have appealed for residents to explore the region and give its economy a vital boost as traders aim to build on a series of promising holiday seasons last year.
The tourism industry is worth an estimated £1.8billion to Suffolk every year and employs around 40,000 people.
Amanda Bond, brand manager of Visit Suffolk, said: “Tourism businesses in Suffolk have gone all out this year with even more events and festivals to compete with any other county in the country.
“Easter is a vital part of the tourism calendar and gives the industry a boost to take through to summer and the rest of the year.
“A positive 2014 has left businesses feeling cautiously optimistic about the year ahead, with forecasts mirroring this positive feeling as visitors stick to budgets less.
“The East region is one of the fastest growing in the country with spend up 13% year on year.
“In Suffolk, we cater for 27 million day visitors per annum and tourism attractions in the county are being more creative about the events they put on in general, focusing on the off-peak periods as well as the traditional busy seasons.”
Meanwhile, holiday lets business Best of Suffolk has reported a 30% increase in Easter bookings compared with last year.
The agency, based at Badingham, near Framlingham, says the increase highlights a growing trend in families choosing Suffolk for their Easter break rather than travelling further afield.
Naomi Tarry, who founded the agency with husband and co-director Alex nine years ago, said: “Suffolk is definitely going from strength to strength for tourism and I think everybody is really raising their game. We are now seeing the results of that.
“The tourism offering is much better. If you stay in a holiday cottage now, you know it is going to be a really high standard. It is about getting that consistency.
“We are really concentrating on giving a strong customer experience and the more we concentrate on giving customers a great experience the more they will keep coming back.
“There have also been a high number of events putting Suffolk in the national news much more. There was the Aldeburgh Festival with their Benjamin Britten centenary two years ago, which really put Suffolk and the Suffolk coast in the spotlight. We have got so many great festivals now like Latitude (Henham Park, Beccles), Folk East (Glemham Hall, Woodbridge) and food and drink festivals that shows Suffolk is a really vibrant place to come and visit.
“This is all contributing to why people are choosing Suffolk.”
Jenny Taylor, who works in the marketing department at Kentwell Hall, which is today holding its first Tudor recreation of the year, said: “We have got over 100 Tudors on the manor so people have the opportunity to explore life in the year 1535 – and once people are here they are hooked because it is such an unique and interesting spectacle.
“We will also be celebrating Easter as well with a really intriguing combination of exhibitions that lend themselves to very lively Tudor celebrations and have got other activities and crafts going on at the weekend as well. There is something for everyone.
“We will wait and see if (2015 can be the best tourism year since the recession). It is great that people are taking more short breaks; staycation is very popular and people are getting out and exploring Suffolk.”
Meanwhile, tourism chiefs have urged people to visit attractions and support local businesses in north-east Essex over Easter amid hopes of a bumper trading season.
Elli Constantatou, tourism marketing and public relations manager at Visit Essex, made an impassioned plea for residents to explore the county and give the county’s economy a vital boost.
The tourism industry is worth an estimated £2.9billion to Essex every year and employs around 55,000 people – around 8% of the population.
Mrs Constantatou said: “There are definitely lots on offer and it is up to the people to get up and go out there and explore what is on their doorstep.
“This weekend is when the new season starts. Nature has awakened and it is almost like a new hope for a new year because it is important to see your environment blooming. It lifts your spirits and it is beautiful to see everything in bloom in the countryside.
“People should get out there and discover Essex. Don’t worry if it is a bit drizzly because it is very important to support your local economy. It is essential.
Part of our ‘Live Local, Love Local’ campaign is to encourage residents to go out and discover what is on their doorsteps and support our businesses, because if our tourism businesses are not being supported first of all on a local level by people that really proud of living in Essex and have these lovely attractions, how can we expect the wider world to appreciate Essex? It starts from within.”
But she expressed strong hopes of a successful trading season over Easter, saying: “I am definitely confident there will be a big tourism boost in Essex this Easter. There are lots of different types of events and things going on to suit everybody’s taste. I am very positive and spirits are very high.
“In Colchester, there are lots of things going on, and the weather looks quite encouraging. Bourne Mill (a Grade 1 listed building watermill with a working waterwheel near Colchester) has an Easter Egg Hunt, Audley End House and Gardens in Saffron Walden is having an Easter Adventure Quest and Audley End Miniature Railway is running events as well.”
Young families are urged to attend Easter egg trails at Colchester Castle, which is free for children under 16, at Playgolf near Colchester and at Chelmsford Museum over the Bank Holiday weekend.
Tom Hodgson, manager Colchester Museum, which runs the new £4.2million refurbished Colchester Castle, said: “We are certainly expecting a big influx of visitors and have had a really good year since we opened to the public on May 2 last year.
“The castle is our flagship museum and it’s really good to come to the castle to explore because we have got the park and just across the road is the Natural History Museum.
“We have seen 100,000 visitors since May last year. We are doing really well and certainly achieving our target in terms of visitors coming to the castle.”
“The weather on Saturday and Sunday is set to be quite fair, and it is obviously good to have weather which gets people out.
“Some of our members of staff will also be in costume which will make it more colourful and intriguing for visitors.”
Jim Bacon, forecaster for Weatherquest, said bright and sunny spells will follow a series of light showers at the start of the four-day Easter period in the region, but warned a cool North Sea breeze will mean the temperature will struggle to exceed 10C (50F).
He said: “There is rain coming on Friday with a few light showers on Saturday morning, but then high pressure is building and it will be drier and brighter.
“The temperatures will not be stunning but it is not a disaster – in the sunshine it will feel pleasant if the winds are not too strong.”