Tourism groups share ideas to grow Suffolk tourism

DMO tourism event held at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront building
Photo L-R:
Peter Waters,

DMO tourism event held at the University of Suffolk, Waterfront building Photo L-R: Peter Waters, Visit East AngliaVictoria Savory, Adnams and Suffolk Coastal DMO, Tim Rowan-Robinson, formerly of Suffolk Coastal DMO, Malcolm Bell, Visit Cornwall, Laura Locke, Suffolk Business School at the University of Suffolk, Ian Russell- Visit the Broads and Visit Norwich, Charles Howard- Discover Newmarke.t - Credit: Archant

The tourism industry is already worth hundreds of millions of pounds to the local economy in Suffolk, and that figure is growing, year-on-year.

The chaos and colour of the boatyards at Southwold Harbour were the inspiration for this evocative p

The chaos and colour of the boatyards at Southwold Harbour were the inspiration for this evocative painting by Michael Hughes. Titled High & Dry, the picture and many more new works in watercolour, oil, acrylic, pastel and mixed media, by Michael, of Wickham Market, and fellow artist Kay Nightingale, of Aldeburgh, can be seen at their annual Two Suffolk Artists exhibition at The Aldeburgh Gallery, 143 High Street - open daily from 10am to 5pm until Wednesday. - Credit: Archant

It means work and prosperity as, in addition to the jobs directly attributed to the tourism trade, there are many more involved in the supply chains.

But the task for those in the local business community is to find ways of growng the trade further and making the local attractions and events an even bigger “pull” for visitors to the region.

Visit East Anglia has just hosted a conference and workshop at the Univeristy of Suffolk business and tourism deparment, bringing together a wide variety of delegates and expert speakers.

Keynote speakers were Malcolm Bell of Visit Cornwell, Ian Russell of Visit Norwich and Enjoy The Broads, Tim Rowan Robinson of Suffolk Coast and Charles Howard of Discover Newmarket and Cambridge & Beyond.

These are alll local organisations, pulling together public and private sectors as DMOs - Destination Marketing/Management Organisations.

Tourism businesses joined councillors and community representatives at the university to discuss the tourism trade in the county.

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Unlike neighbouring Norfolk, Suffolk is, largely, just creating DMOs. Suffolk Coast is the only well-established DMO with Discover Newmarket a new addition alongside emerging DMOs from the Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds BIDs (Business Improvement Districts).

The Visit East Anglia-organised workshop was to share best practice and to inspire and enthuse. The speakers explained how they set up the DMOs in their areas, giving the messaging that there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach.

Malcolm Bell from Visit Cornwall shared his thoughts before the event: “Tourism is a massive industry run by particularly small businesses and that’s the same for Suffolk as it is for Cornwall.

“There aren’t big brand names here. My passion is to keep it that way and I think working together and working with a DMO you get the power to take on the big corporates and the chains and to keep the independent, local businesses. To keep the profits locally. It is the old adage of united we stand, divided we fall.”

“It is like a coming of age with tourism in the domestic market. For a long time it was that local governments must do it and the industry can’t look after itself, almost like a parenting role. I think now the kid has grown up, the kid is able to do it. It still needs their (public sector) involvement but it is a bit of a role reversal, we need them in support of the private sector not leading the private sector. That’s the winning combination.”

On Brexit he added: “Business makes the most of the conditions they are in and we’d be absolute fools not to make the most of the staycation and more importantly to get some overseas visitors in. Make the most of it and reinvest is my message.”

On Suffolk, Malcom said: “At the moment I think people think south and west and in a way the challenge is with the London market and some of the other markets is to get people to think east. All the wonderful attractions are on their doorstep.

“Our big growth market in Cornwall has been secondary holidays where people have at least a week to recharge. Now you’re in a beautiful position to build that market particularly from the Midlands as well as London.”

Victoria Savory from Adnams, who is involved with Visit East Anglia, Visit Suffolk and the Suffolk Coast DMO, acted as an advocate for the group approach saying it provides an opportunity for business, especially small and independent businesses, to be part of something bigger, a powerful collective that provides the opportunity for exposure.

For consumers having a DMO such as Suffolk Coastal means they have a “one stop shop” when wishing to find out about a destination; when they are “shopping for the best tourism gems in the area.”

Victoria added: “DMOs are attractive brand propositions that bring visitors into this region, and grow our tourism economy.”

Other speakers were Tim Rowan-Robinson from the Suffolk Coast, Charles Howard from Discover Newmarket and Cambridge & Beyond, and Ian Russell who helped establish Visit Norwich and Enjoy The Broads.

Visit East Anglia brought the delegates together and act as a “back office” for DMOs in the region, including Visits Norfolk and Suffolk.

Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East Anglia, said “There is no one-size-fits-all model for a DMO so it was important to show the delegates various options and for the public and private sectors to work together to decide the best course of action in each destination.”

Laura Locke from the Suffolk Business School at the University of Suffolk added: “This event offered the University of Suffolk the opportunity to support the businesses and agencies that work in the growth area of tourism. Suffolk is a wonderful county and we celebrate our role in its economic success and offer degree level tourism related programmes.”