Popular visitor economy grants help lift region’s businesses out of deep slump

Visitors enjoyed the sunshine in Southwold on Bank Holiday Monday Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Visitors enjoyed the sunshine in Southwold on Bank Holiday Monday Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Hard-hit hospitality businesses across Norfolk and Suffolk have been given tens of thousands of pounds in special grant aid to get them through the coronavirus pandemic.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is striving to keep alive the region’s key tourism sector — which has been crippled by the crisis.

One beneficiary of its Visitor Economy Grant Scheme has been a north Norfolk hotel why has managed to get it new keyless entry system funded by the scheme.

Virginia Court Hotel in Cromer — a 23-bed seaside hotel which sustained heavy losses when it was forced to close — is hoping it will attract guests looking for a more flexible check-in and check-out system.

The exterior of the Virginia Court Hotel in Cromer

Virginia Court Hotel has benefited from a LEP visitor economy grant - Credit: Google Maps

As well as being more convenient, the keyless system — funded through a £2,022 grant from the LEP — will be safer for guests during the pandemic 


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Three members of staff were made redundant during the three-month closure of the business which resulted in reduced check-in times and access to hotel rooms — meaning fewer bookings.

Now its owners hope that when the hotel reopens in March 2021, it will help attract guests outside of the peak seasons and give the business more economic resilience.

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Shaun Trumble, who co-owns the hotel with Martin Torrens, said: “Until now, people have had to check in and out during certain times. This keyless door lock system means we can give them the code and they can arrive whenever they want.

“If they are a salesperson or other worker who might be leaving London at seven in the evening and getting here late, it gives them that flexibility to arrive with their code and go to their room. Previously, we would have had to turn away that business.

“A lot of our custom is seasonal, but this allows us to get that incremental business in the shoulder months when it’s quiet and try and tap into a new market.”

The LEP’s Visitor & Wider Economy Grant Schemes offer between £1,000 and £3,000 to businesses in the visitor economy sector and supply chain or wider economy to help them respond to Covid-19 and implement their planned projects. No match funding is required, but applicants have to purchase items up front and claim back costs.

The scheme is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and has so far awarded £123,787 to 46 projects, while the Wider Economy Grant Scheme has awarded £133,505 to 51 projects.

New Anglia Growth Hub adviser Glen Moore said: “The hospitality sector has been hit really badly during the Covid-19 crisis and we know important the visitor economy is to Norfolk and Suffolk. We are delighted we can offset at least a small part of the damage with these grants, which are proving to be very popular.”

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