East leads the way as visitor numbers and tourism spend grow

Amanda Bond, Visit Suffolk brand manager, at Southwold.

Amanda Bond, Visit Suffolk brand manager, at Southwold. - Credit: Archant

The eastern region’s tourism industry outperformed the rest of England last year, with average spending by visitors growing by more than twice the national average.

Figures from national tourism body Visit England reveal the East to be the only part of the country to have recorded increases in each of the three key areas of trips, nights and spend.

This means that more people are visiting the region and are staying longer and spending more per trip – all good news for visitor attractions and hospitality businesses, and the wider economy.

The number of bed nights (overnight stays by visitors) in the East was up 9.83% compared with 2013, against a decrease nationally of 8.17%, and visitors to the region spent an extra 12.6% per visit last year, more than double the national average of 6.2%.

Total spending by visitors in Suffolk topped £1.6billion last year, an increase of 13.92% compared with just over £1.4bn in 2013.

The total value of tourism to the county’s economy is even higher when knock-on benefits such as employment are taken into account, with the figure now thought to be in the region of £1.8bn.

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said: “It’s a great boost for the county to see hard evidence that we are topping holidaymakers’ destinations of choice. We work hard to promote the whole county and highlight the wealth of attractions we have here to domestic tourists.

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“Last year we re-launched our website, www.visitsuffolk.com, with a really user-friendly interactive map to help people to create personalised itineraries according to their own interests.

“This year we have exciting plans for innovative content including videos, to offer further inspiration and standout on busy online channels and ultimately continue to increase visitors to the county.”

Tim Rowan-Robinson, chairman of the Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation (DMO), which now works alongside Visit Suffolk to develop tourism at a local level, said: “The new DMO is working really well with a huge amount of effort being made in order to promote and develop tourism businesses along the Suffolk Coast.

“We are thrilled with the support we have received to date, and very excited about future development. As chairman of the TA Hotel Collection as well as the Suffolk Coast DMO, I am only too aware of the importance of domestic tourists to the local economy.

“This survey denotes an important shift in awareness of the East as a holiday destination, and we will certainly be doing our best to continue to increase our market share in the years to come.”