Concerns raised over Visit Suffolk’s performance in attracting tourism to county

Tourism hotspots in Suffolk include Framlingham Castle. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Tourism hotspots in Suffolk include Framlingham Castle. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Question marks have been raised over the strength of Visit Suffolk’s campaigns to attract visitors to the county, as those funding it fail to commit to cash beyond March next year.

Amanda Bond from Visit Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Amanda Bond from Visit Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Archant

Visit Suffolk works with the county’s local authorities, the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and various destination management organisations (DMOs) as an umbrella body to signpost tourism opportunities in the county.

Tens of thousands of pounds have been pumped into the service by local authorities and the LEP, but in a report penned by Suffolk Coastal District Council, concerns were raised that Visit Suffolk was underperforming, and committed to funding its £10,000 for only another 12 months.

The report said: “Visit Suffolk has not been as good as was anticipated, particularly in terms of website performance and difficulties experienced in the coordination and delivery of marketing campaigns on behalf of Suffolk as a whole.”

The DMO for the east Suffolk coast will continue to get £35,000 per year for the next three years.

Southwold Pier is also one of the county's most popular attractions. Picture: PETER GASKIN/CITIZENSI

Southwold Pier is also one of the county's most popular attractions. Picture: PETER GASKIN/CITIZENSIDE.COM - Credit: citizenside.com

DMOs are organisations covering specific areas of the county, bringing together businesses, leaders and other organisations to bring in tourism spend and boost the economy.

DMOs were last year launched in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

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It is understood that the longer-term aim is for Visit Suffolk to establish a commercial model which will allow it to become self-funding.

A spokeswoman from Suffolk County Council said that it has been funding Visit Suffolk to the tune of £30,000 per year, which has also only been extended for the next 12 months.

When the end of the 12 months nears a review will be taken as to whether improvements have been made in Visit Suffolk’s performance, with additional funding in the future not having been ruled out, according to Suffolk Coastal’s economic development cabinet member Geoff Holdcroft.

He added that the organisation was “working better now”, with campaigns focusing on under 35s, the Women’s Tour and activity weekends planned for 2018.

The LEP has funded both Visit Suffolk and Visit Norfolk with £172.000 since 2012, with a single grant each of £100,000 in 2012, with the remaining £72,000 awarded annually in incrementally smaller grants from 2014-18.

Julian Munson, head of enterprise zones and innovation at New Anglia LEP, said: “Alongside our local authority partners, the LEP works with Visit East Anglia, Visit Norfolk, Visit Suffolk and local tourism bodies to continually improve the offer of our £2.3bn visitor economy in the East.

“To that end, LEP and local authority partners have begun work to develop a sustainable business model for our DMOs and to look for new opportunities to enhance the work of this key sector.”

Amanda Bond from Visit Suffolk said: “Meetings are currently on-going with the county council, New Anglia LEP and all the districts and any comment now might be prejudicial and ill-advised.”

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