Foreign visitors boost Suffolk tourism

THE tourism industry in Suffolk has seen a huge rise in the number of overseas visitors and they are spending more than ever before, new figures reveal.

By Danielle Nuttall

THE tourism industry in Suffolk has seen a huge rise in the number of overseas visitors and they are spending more than ever before, new figures reveal.

And tourism chiefs say the welcome trend looks set to continue, predicting foreign visitors to the UK will soar by up to 10% this year - with East Anglia one of the areas poised to benefit.

Last night, tourism officials urged businesses to continue to adapt and improve to capitalise on the “huge economic potential”.

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Spending by international visitors in Suffolk rose by £13million in 2004 - up to £57million - while overseas visits to the county increased from 191,000 to 207,000, according to VisitBritain .

And the profile of Suffolk as a desirable destination is being raised even further it emerged yesterday, with Aldeburgh featuring in a new national campaign.

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Posters featuring artist Maggi Hambling's Scallop sculpture, famously positioned on Aldeburgh beach, will be displayed in London urging people to enjoy a getaway in the town.

Tom Wright, chief executive for VisitBritain, said yesterday: “Suffolk remains a popular destination for international and British visitors - not least because of its easy accessibility from London. “We'll be featuring Suffolk in a number of campaigns this year, as its stunning coastline, picture-perfect villages and an air of relaxation make it perfect for a touring holiday.

“With positive tourism prospects for 2006 and beyond, we expect many more visitors to come to the region to enjoy its unique appeals.”

In Visit Britain's latest prospects report, Oxford Economic Forecasting Ltd says the tourist industry in 2006 is likely to outperform last year's figures by 10%.

Travel firms are gearing up for further increases in self-catering style holidays and an increased trend in short breaks, which could see popular holiday cottage retreats such as Aldeburgh, Southwold and Lavenham reap the dividends.

Tess Wright, managing director of the East of England Tourist Board, welcomed the predicted boost last night.

“The predicted increase in overseas visitors is very good news - the value of in-bound tourism is higher than that generated by domestic tourism, so even a small increase generates significant additional revenue.”

VisitBritain predicts a 4.3% increase in the value of tourism spending in the UK this year, which should see it reach £14.5billion.

But the rate of growth will be more moderate compared to the sharp increases seen in 2004 and early 2005.

This has mainly been put down to the ongoing recovery from the July 2005 bombings in London, an increase in visa fees, high oil prices and the weakness of the US Dollar.

During 2004, 27.7million overseas visitors travelled to the UK compared to 24.7 the previous year. Income from those visitors rose from £11.7billion to £13billion.

VisitBritain is urging travel and tourism entrepreneurs in East Anglia to showcase the region's attractions at this year's British Travel Trade Fair, held at The National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham on March 1 and 2.

Mr Wright said: “Overall, international consumers spend £13billion 'buying' British tourism - that's more than they spend buying crude oil, vehicles, or food, beverages and tobacco from us. 2006 will be another good year with international visitor spending in the UK rising further to reach £14.5billion.

“While demand is clearly out there, visitor profiles and tourism trends are changing and the increasing popularity of short breaks is affecting tourism revenue.

“Local businesses must continue to adapt and improve their products and showcase them to new audiences to further boost visitor numbers and capitalise even further on tourism's huge economic potential.”

The British Travel Trade Fair is the largest of its kind in the UK and attracts an estimated 2,500 travel trade visitors, including more than 200 industry buyers from overseas.

For further information on the event, visit the website .

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