East Anglia: Tourism firms highlight need for road improvements and faster broadband

This summer's heatwave provided a welcome boost for East Anglia's tourism firms, but they they warne

This summer's heatwave provided a welcome boost for East Anglia's tourism firms, but they they warned that infrastructure improvements remain vital for the industry's long-term growth. - Credit: Archant

Despite having enjoyed a successful season as this year’s summer sunshine delivered a boost to visitor numbers, East Anglia’s £4.2billion tourism industry cannot rely on the weather alone if it is to continue to grow, a new survey has signalled.

Tourism businesses are agreed that well-thought-out road improvements and faster broadband sppeds are both vital, the latest quarterly Tourism Confidence Monitor prepared by chartered accountants Larking Gowen on behalf of Visit Suffolk and Visit Norfolk has revealed.

With the survey open to all tourism businesses across East Anglia, hundreds of firms were surveyed for the quarterly monitor which was introduced earlier this year by Visit Suffolk and Visit Norfolk as an addition to Larking Gowen’s established annual tourism business survey.

Among Suffolk businesses, there was strong opposition to plans to toll the A14 between Huntingdon and Cambridge with only 12% believing it would be a positive development for tourism and 28% feeling it could be detrimental to their trade.

Meanwhile, in Norfolk, the dualling of the A11 received a large vote of confidence with 58% of tourism businesses believing it would have a positive impact by reducing journey times, particularly over weekends.

In both counties, about 50% of tourism businesses felt that investment in better road signage would help them and a similar percentage said there should be a greater marketing spend.

The survey shows that East Anglia’s tourism businesses have clearly identified the use of online marketing and social media distribution channels as the most cost effective routes to market in the future and charts a rapid growth in these areas.

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More than 70% believe improved broadband speed is vital to this end and that businesses should continue to collectively lobby for it.

Keith Brown, chief executive of Visit East Anglia, said: “The survey shows that tourism businesses are very unsure about the impact of the introduction of tolling on the A14.

“Clearly any further transport legislation that makes getting to Suffolk more expensive will potentially have an increasing detrimental effect on our sector.”

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said: “This survey is an important chance for us to take on feedback from the region and this quarter’s report is no different with broadband and plans to toll the A14 being clear concerns for us to address.

“The survey confirms how important social networking sites are to consumer behaviour, hence why it is going to form such an important part of our next tourism marketing campaign, Take Me to Suffolk.”

Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, added: “At our recent Visit Norfolk autumn conference the head of Cornish tourism told us the huge difference A30 road improvements in the South West made both practically and in terms of perception of getting into the county.

“The majority of people in our survey believe the final dualling of the A11 at Elveden will have a positive impact and we must be ready to market the fact that travel is improving.”

: : Tourism businesses in Suffolk are invited to attend the last event in Visit Suffolk’s 2013 networking programme, which takes place at Seckford Hall, Woodbridge, from 5pm to 7pm on Tuesday, November 26.

The event will give tourism businesses an opportunity to find out about Visit Suffolk’s new website launching in 2014 with the winner of a “Mastermind of Suffolk” quiz gaining a free listing.

The event is free to tourism businesses based in Suffolk but booking is essential as places are limited. To book, email amanda@visitsuffolk.com