East Anglian tourism boom to continue into weekend

EAST Anglia's summer tourism boom is set to continue over the Bank Holiday weekend with many in the industry already experiencing a record-breaking season.

Elliot Furniss

EAST Anglia's summer tourism boom is set to continue over the Bank Holiday weekend with many in the industry already experiencing record a record-breaking season.

Thanks to above average temperatures and very low rainfall, many of Suffolk and Essex's attractions have seen higher than normal attendances during August.

This weekend is set to crown a glorious month for the tourism trade in the region and the teams at attractions such as Colchester Zoo, Easton Farm Park and Clacton Pier are bracing themselves for large crowds.

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Fiona Siddall, manager at Easton Farm Park, reported a big improvement on last summer's trade and said it was partly down to the number of people choosing to holiday in the UK this year.

She said: “It's certainly been an improvement on last year. We're very fortunate here in Suffolk - even in the West Country they've had shocking weather while this has been the best summer we have had in years.

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“We're very fortunate that people are staying at home this summer or holidaying in the UK. We would like it to be a record summer - it's not quite a record yet, but we're really pleased to be ahead instead of chasing our tails.”

Keith Brown, chief executive of East of England Tourism, said that in a recent survey of more than 250 businesses in Essex and Suffolk, 73% had reported an increase in visitor numbers.

He said: “In terms of their expectations until the end of September, 57% said that business was likely to remain strong.

“Since the survey was undertaken, improved weather conditions and a positive forecast for September is resulting in many businesses increasing their optimism with a record year in prospect.

“As well as improved visitor numbers, the research confirms that our visitors are spending more money in the region which is good news for jobs as well as those businesses involved in this important industry sector.”

Alex Paul, tourism manager at Choose Suffolk, which runs the Visit Suffolk website, said there were a number of factors that had made this summer “so successful”.

He said: “When we're out and about talking to members of the Choose Suffolk Tourism Partnership we're hearing some very positive stories about their experiences this summer.

“Many of them have had a great summer period, with bookings up on last year and, in some cases, already coming in for the months ahead.

“While the improving weather has certainly played its part this year, Suffolk has also managed to tap in to a renewed interest in holidaying at home and is very well-placed to continue meeting this demand.”

Anthony Tropeano, curator of Colchester Zoo, said the summer had received a kick-start thanks to the excellent weather over the Easter holidays.

He said: “It's been a pretty good season, if you compare year on year, and we had the distinct advantage of the good weather at Easter.

“The summer, particularly August, has been very good and the figures are extremely encouraging. Over this weekend we would expect to see in the region of 9,000 to 10,000 during the three days.”

Elliot Ball is a director of the Pier Company which owns Clacton Pier and said that after buying the attraction back in March it had experienced a very encouraging first summer season.

He said: “Clacton Pier is completely weather dependent and we have been very fortunate this year and only had one day of rain in the six weeks up to now and that has helped us very much in our first year with the pier.

“It has certainly shown us that the pier has great, great potential.”

Patsy Cane, spokeswoman for the Museum of East Anglian Life, in Stowmarket, said the site's programme of events and activities for children had helped bring people back for repeat visits.

She said: “Our attendance is up and our events have been very, very popular. We've had the best weather in Britain and our beer festival is going from strength to strength and the steam weekend again had a very good attendance.”

Naomi Tarry, of Best of Suffolk, which offers “stylish, self-catering holiday accommodation”, said August had been the company's busiest ever month.

She said: “It's been a really brilliant summer - we have been so busy and this month we're set to take more bookings than ever before.

“Everyone has been reporting back what a great time they have been having. The events have been excellent - Aldeburgh Carnival was spectacular - and the quality and cultural aspects play a big part.”

NEXT week the East Anglian Daily Times will celebrate the achievements of the local tourism industry when it features the finalists in the 2009 Tourism in Suffolk Awards.

The awards are organised by the Archant Suffolk - publishers of the EADT and Evening Star - and sponsored by Choose Suffolk.

They recognise and reward the outstanding businesses and individuals which contribute to the success of the county's booming tourism industry.

The 12 winners - including the People's Award, chosen by the public - will be announced at a gala event on September 24.

Read more about the awards finalists in the EADT on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday next week.

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