Conference hails tourism successes

A YEAR of success for tourism in Suffolk and the future challenges facing the sector came under discussion yesterday at the Suffolk Tourism Partnership's annual conference.

A YEAR of success for tourism in Suffolk and the future challenges facing the sector came under discussion yesterday at the Suffolk Tourism Partnership's annual conference.

Welcome guests to the event, held at the Trinity Park Conference and Event Centre outside Ipswich, partnership chairman Robert Gough highlighted the status of tourism in Suffolk as a £1billion-turnover industry, involving some 2,500 tourism businesses and 25,000 tourism-related jobs.

Highlights during the past year, he said, had included increased support from the private sector for the partnership's work, a major advertising campaign on the London Underground, a record monthly total of more than 10,000 hits for the partnership's website during August and the recruitment to two additional members of staff, taking the total to three.

The commitment of operators in the county to quality service had also been recognised at the first Tourism in Suffolk Awards, organised by Archant Suffolk, added Mr Gough.

Scott Dolling, the partnership's destination marketing manager, said progress during the year had included new market research, more skills training, more marketing and an emphasis on “green” tourism, including the “Tasty Suffolk” local food initiative and the promotion of walking/cycling routes and non-car travel.

The London Underground advertising campaign, involving every poster site alongside an escalator at Liverpool Street station, recognised not only the importance of north and east London and source of visitors to Suffolk but the importance of establishing the county's proximity to the capital ahead of the London Olympics in 2012, he said.

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More than 20 partners had been involved in the initiative, including regional train operator One which greatly increased the value of the campaign by providing 100 posters across its mainline network.

Current initiatives included a new golf promotion, a targeted approach to the group and coach travel market and a continuing campaign to tap into the American market by highlighting the Suffolk origins of Bartholomew Gosnold, the pioneering settler whose party landed in Virginia in 1607, added Mr Dolling.

Other speakers at the conference included Chris Bushby, executive director of the Suffolk Agricultural Association, who explained the rationale behind the association's investment in the new Trinity Park centre, and Gillian Cruddas, from the York Tourism Bureau, which has grown into a £1.7million turnover business in its own right, with 550 members and 40 staff.

Delegates also had the opportunity to join in a series of workshop sessions, discussing areas such as printed guides, use of the web, sustainable tourism, PR, training and skills, the short breaks market, and the attractions and days out market.