Region set for tourism boost

THE region's tourism industry is set for a multi-million pound boost with a number of new projects expected to attract thousands of visitors to the area.

THE region's tourism industry is set for a multi-million pound boost with a number of new projects expected to attract thousands of visitors to the area.

Plans for a variety of developments were unveiled at a meeting of Suffolk Development Agency's Tourism Partnership, which discussed the potential for the future promotion of the region as a leading visitor destination.

Various new projects were revealed at the meeting, including a proposal to develop a £2.5million waterfront attraction in Ipswich.

Headed by the Waterfront Visitor Attractions Group, in partnership with Ipswich Borough Council and the East of England Development Agency, it is hoped that the new visitor centre could bring as many as 100,000 extra people to the town a year.

Jack Chapman, chairman of the Waterfront Visitor Attractions Group, said: “We have been talking about this for quite some time. Right from the start we wanted a mixed development on the marina and so far we have achieved that.

“There are an excellent range of flats, bars, cafes and even a four-star hotel but there is not actually anything for anyone to travel to and visit.

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“We didn't really want a museum but something that would be a bit more exciting to show people the development, activity, history and heritage of the area.”

Consultant group Continuum, which worked on the popular Jorvik Viking Centre in York, carried out a feasibility study last year and now the company is searching for possible sites for the attraction along the waterfront.

Mike Weidman, tourism officer for Ipswich Borough Council, added: “This area of Ipswich is undergoing a huge renaissance and we are seeing new restaurants, a top hotel and marinas.

“We are now looking at the feasibility of a visitor attraction which could bring in 100,000 visitors a year. This would be a huge boost for Suffolk tourism and further change the face of Ipswich.”

Elsewhere, a £14.5million Home of Horseracing project is planned for Newmarket, which would incorporate a new national museum, a visitor centre at the National Stud and the development of a working yard at the Palace House Stables as a visitor attraction.

Tony Bass, head of leisure services at Forest Heath District Council, said: “This would be a massive boost to the area and the council is working hard in partnership with the East of England Development Agency and representatives from the horseracing world to make sure that it happens.

“From a local point of view it would be a significant new attraction and would help to regenerate some of the older areas of the town while at the same time showcasing the industry.

“Certainly it is not just the local community that will benefit. It is an important development for the whole region and we expect a lot of interest not only on a national level but also internationally.

“Hopefully by September most of the funding should be finalised so that we can give the development a real push.”

There was also an update on plans for the £320million SnOasis project in Great Blakenham, details from Waveney District Council of a multi-million pound regeneration of Lowestoft seafront and plans from Suffolk Coastal District Council about the possibility of holding a major maritime event in the Haven Gateway in 2007.

Dawn Easter, business development and regeneration manager at Suffolk Coastal District Council, said: “At the moment we are only looking at it as a potential idea. We are currently carrying out a feasibility study to see what we can do, where we can do it and how much it would cost.

“Hopefully we could organise an event across Suffolk and Essex which incorporates a number of areas including Felixstowe, Ipswich, Mistley, Harwich and Colchester.”

Commenting on the developments Tim Rowan-Robinson, chairman of the Suffolk Development Agency's Tourism Partnership, added: “It's exciting that all this new activity is planned to boost tourism in Suffolk. With the whole industry now working closely together to market Suffolk as a destination we have a huge opportunity to grow tourism's economic contribution to the county significantly over the next few years.”

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