Businesses told to cash in on Olympics

BUSINESS leaders across the county have been urged to cash in on a multi-million pound bonanza for Suffolk in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics.Four-time Olympian Karen Pickering has appealed to the county's companies to capitalise on massive tourism prospects by backing the region's budding athletes.

BUSINESS leaders across the county have been urged to cash in on a multi-million pound bonanza for Suffolk in the run up to the London 2012 Olympics.

Four-time Olympian Karen Pickering has appealed to the county's companies to capitalise on massive tourism prospects by backing the region's budding athletes.

Speaking at the Suffolk Tourism Partnership's annual conference in Newmarket yesterday, she urged commerce and sport chiefs to unite and make the most of a unique opportunity for the local economy.

“It's a great time now to jump on the back of the 2012 Olympics, and by supporting our athletes, they can go and spread the word about Suffolk,” said Ms Pickering, the recently-appointed sports ambassador for Ipswich.


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“If businesses in Suffolk promote them, they can promote Suffolk businesses. “The focus is going to be on our potential Olympians for the next seven years and we need to capitalise on their time in the limelight for everyone's benefit.”

She detailed how she had first come to the county 17 years ago for swimming training and had stayed because of the region's unique identity.

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By attracting people to visit on the strength of sport, they too could be expected to return and explore the region, she added.

“In my own experience, my parents had to stay two or three hours away when I was competing at the Olympics and we are just an hour away from London,” added Ms Pickering.

Tourism partnership chairman and hotelier Robert Gough said his organisation, now in its fourth year of existence, was in a unique position to move forward and push Suffolk as a major attraction.

“Tourism is already worth around £1 billion annually to the county, which is one fifth of the region's tourism income,” he said.

“With 600 members we are now in a position, as never before, to capitalise on what we have to offer, and this is a truly unique opportunity, not just during the Olympics but in the years surrounding the games, to secure long term gains for the region's economy and cultural identity.

“In terms of time, we will be closer to the games than Heathrow Airport, and that is a great incentive for us to bring people to the region.”

East of England Tourist Board managing director Tess Wright outlined how an estimated 75% of benefits from the games would be via tourism and said both Sydney and Barcelona had experienced massive financial gains from being Olympic hosts.

In the years prior to the Sydney Olympics, more than £200 million was spent on conferences alone, while Barcelona leapt from the 16th to the 3rd most popular destination for a short break in Europe, she said.

The partnership is promoting the county through a series of adverts on the London Underground and a national newspaper campaign is also planned, the conference was told.

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