Easter weekend provides tourism boost

TOURIST attractions across East Anglia have reported a positive start to the "make or break" Easter weekend – seen as a key indicator of the success the summer season may hold.

By Jonathan Barnes

TOURIST attractions across East Anglia have reported a positive start to the "make or break" Easter weekend – seen as a key indicator of the success the summer season may hold.

Thousands of visitors descended upon the region's tourist hotspots as the Easter break began.

Heavy traffic was reported on main roads as people made the most of the four-day holiday and theme parks, resorts and attractions prepared for one of the busiest spells of the year.

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Tourism bosses kept their fingers crossed for good weather and were rewarded with a dry, if unspectacular, day.

Kate Sussams, property manager at Sutton Hoo visitor centre, said: "This is a very important weekend – it's the first indicator of how the tourism season is shaping up, whether people are holidaying abroad or going on short breaks. Every attraction is competing for the same pot of people."

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She added: "We've had a great start to the weekend, there are lots of children on site, which is great. We're expecting an excellent weekend.

"Of course, everyone is nervous about the weather, and it wasn't the greatest last week, but it hasn't seemed to damped people's enthusiasm.

"We've got indoor and outdoor activities so we've got the best of both worlds. If it's raining, people can look at our new indoor exhibition and if it's sunny they can go on our trails and visit the ship burial mounds."

An Easter Egg trail led children around Sutton Hoo with questions about the site and after children had found the answers they were able to claim an Easter goodie bag sponsored by Marks and Spencer.

Meanwhile, Fiona Kerr, manager of Easton Farm Park, said: "The Easter weekend is absolutely crucial to us – all the bank holidays are the most important dates of our year, especially as we are a seasonal tourist attraction.

"It's so important that the weather holds out and that's our main concern. But so far things are looking good and we've got lots going on."

Staff at Felixstowe Tourism Information Centre said the resort had enjoyed a good start to the bank holiday weekend.

Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds was already experiencing large crowds, and its new car park was already close to full when the EADT spoke to education officer Ellie Bartrum.

She said: "We've got lots of activities over the Easter period and it's very important to us to start off the season well, especially when the weather's lovely as it is this afternoon.

"It's good for the staff to see everything reawakening at the start of the season and the people flooding back."

Patrick Phillips owner of Kentwell Hall, Long Melford, said: "Easter is usually the busiest weekend of the year for us but it's largely dependent upon the weather, luckily this year the sun has come out, but it has been raining for the last few days, so it's still a bit heavy under foot.

"It's the first proper holiday since Christmas and it is busy, but it doesn't necessarily provide any insight into how the rest of the season will go, because that too is dependent upon the weather, but there are lots of people here now and they are all enjoying themselves."

Fine sunny weather tempted many people to visit north Suffolk's many tourist attractions yesterday on the first day of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.

Southwold was a popular venue for families although a chilly wind meant that most people were happy to walk along the promenade rather than stay on the beach.

Southwold Pier was especially busy as the clouds parted and there were long clear sunny periods.

"It has been a superb start to the weekend and it is great to see so many people enjoying themselves," said a spokesman at the pier's restaurant.

Ice cream vendors were also kept busy in the town but once again some motorists found it difficult to park.

There were plenty of visitors to Suffolk Wildlife Park at Kessingland and to the Pleasurewood Hills theme park near Lowestoft.

"We have been delighted with the way the day has gone," said a spokeswoman at Pleasurewood Hills.

Colchester Zoo curator Anthony Tropeano said yesterday's visitor mumbers had been excellent and boded well for the Easter weekend.

"We have been extremely busy today – it has gone very, very well.

"This is always the first really busy weekend for us in the year – it's the beginning of the summer season."

Mr Tropeano said it was still not quite yet warm enough for Jambo, the new baby elephant, to venture intop the paddock.

But he said the two lions, Subu and Ashanti, were adapting well to their new enclosure.

"They have settled in remarkably well," he said.

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