Tourist trade hopes for 'staycation' 2022 after strong summer countered 59% shrink
- Credit: Archant
Businesses in the tourism industry across Suffolk experienced a strong bounce-back this summer - and remain hopeful that the trend will continue throughout next year.
Despite fewer restrictions, no lockdowns after January but some difficulties travelling abroad, a lot of people had 'staycations' this year, further boosting the local economy's recovery.
Although there is a lot to recover. Visit East of England released data that showed during the Covid-19 pandemic the value of tourism shrunk by 59% in Suffolk, from £2.1bn to £885m and tourism-related employment in Suffolk 42% from 44,498 to 25,840.
Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East of England, reflected on the positive changes that have been seen in 2021. He said: "The summer season has been very good across the board, from visitor attractions to accommodation, although it’s been a tougher time for hospitality because of staff shortages and social distancing.
"The difference this year has been success of the vaccine roll-out and the easing of restrictions.
"There’s more to the visitor economy than summer on the coast and we need to convey that we have great things to do 12 months of the year.
"Support has been invaluable for the sector and without it there would undoubtedly have been more business closures and job losses. The continued reduction in VAT and changes to business rates have been very helpful."
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While the peak tourism months have now passed, there remains optimism across the industry for the coming months and next year.
David Scott, CEO for The Hotel Folk, who own and run six hotels and an event venue across Suffolk, said: "All the hotels have been phenomenally busy and we have had a record summer with a higher than previous level of bookings running into the autumn.
"Although the peak months for UK tourism have now passed, our hotels still have a high occupancy level of over 70% during November, which is ahead of expectations for this time of year. This is usually a period when people might seek sun abroad before the British winter, but as many still don’t have the confidence to travel overseas, they are booking a staycation.
"We are also almost full for Christmas itself, New Year is close behind with very few rooms remaining and we are encouraged by the level of bookings coming through for 2022.
"We believe it will take some time yet for the public at large to feel confident about overseas travel and anticipate 2022 will be another busy staycation year."
Wag & Bone director Gary Thompson said Christmas and New Year is a very busy tourist time for the dog boutique shop.
"We’re in a much better position than this time last year, with clear light at the end of the tunnel rather than the impending darkness of all but guaranteed lockdown," said Mr Thompson.
"There is of course still significant apprehension re the winter and what that might bring for the early part of next year. But more hope that Boxing Day events will go ahead and that we’ll actually get an Easter next year."
Harry Young, managing director of Snape Maltings, said: "The summer season is hugely important for us, but November and December are our busiest trading months, so we just hope that there are no more lockdowns.
"So far we are managing to restock and keep the shops looking wonderful. We are cautiously optimistic that will remain the case, but our buying team are working overtime."
Manning's Amusements in Felixstowe reported a good summer, but noted that they haven’t seen all their regulars back yet, especially the older ones.
Grants and furlough have helped the business and staff, while the extra footfall from Beach Street has meant they are busier this year than last for the same weeks and months.
Southwold Town manager Hannah Wright said that for her town, when the weather is bad fewer people visit and there wasn't a particularly good summer.
However, compared to the summer of 2020, there were more people in general. She said: "When they came out of lockdown, they wanted to spend their money, they wanted to go out, they wanted to do stuff.
"I think it's gone back to how it was in 2019, it would be difficult to compare to last year.
"I wouldn't like to say across the board, but from some of the businesses I have spoken to."