Region lost £400m in tourist trade despite promised 'staycation' bonanza

Sunburst through Southwold Pier

Sunburst through Southwold Pier, one of the tourist attractions in East Suffolk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A popular Suffolk tourist area missed out on the promised staycation bonanza after being hit by a £400million loss in visitor trade during 2021 due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions and social distancing. 

Businesses in East Suffolk reported a 57% fall in revenue despite seeing a 30% increase in bookings on the previous year as capacity limits and social distancing imposed to deal with the pandemic meant they could serve fewer customers than usual. 

However, despite income falling from £695m to £297m, the value of tourism to the East Suffolk district was still greater than for the Ipswich, Babergh and Mid Suffolk districts combined. 

The findings are presented in a report to East Suffolk Council’s full council meeting on Wednesday, February 23. 

Julian Evans, marketing director for the Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation (DMO), which promotes the area’s visitor economy, said although restrictions on foreign travel led to many tourists looking to holiday in the UK, those that came were not spending at pre-pandemic levels due to limits on the numbers that businesses could accommodate. 

Fewer visitors were also prepared to venture out. 

He added: “There are many challenges ahead for the tourism sector, East Suffolk is blessed with some of the most stunning countryside, beaches and towns and we will continue to encourage visitors to the region. 

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“The East of England collaboration of DMOs allows us to pull together marketing resources and combine budgets.  

“Commended by Visit England and Visit Britain this allows us to compete against the bigger holiday destinations.” 

The report also highlighted a surge in interest in the Suffolk Coast DMO’s website, which experienced a 60% increase in users compared to pre-pandemic levels, while in the last six months of 2021, there were 1.25m page views. 

A new East Suffolk Tourism and Visitor Economy Plan is being developed which will analyse the impact of COVID-19 on the tourism and visitor economy and will identify key programmes that the council can deliver with partner agencies to meet the strategic economic priorities for the sector.