Suffolk needs to appeal to the “holiday snacking” market – tourism chief

James Berresford at the conference.

James Berresford at the conference. - Credit: Gregg Brown

Suffolk’s tourism value now tops £1.8 billion – and is not far behind that of Cornwall which earns £2 billion a year from visitors.

And this region needs to continue to focus on attracting short-break visitors, especially those who decide to take a few days off at the last minute.

That was the verdict from the chief executive of Visit England James Berresford, the keynote speaker at the “Suffolk Unlocked” conference at Trinity Park yesterday.

He said that while the county was doing many of the right things to attract more visitors to its tourist industry, there were still challenges to be overcome.

There had been a growth in the number of people taking holidays in England since the recession struck in 2008 – but the headline figures did hide some issues that needed to be tackled.

And Suffolk’s position within easy reach for of London, the south east and the midlands put it in pole position for a new phenomenon – “Holiday Snacking.”

Mr Berresford said: “There are increasing numbers of people looking for short breaks at very short notice. They want to go away but expect to get a good deal – or have extra value added in. That is where you can come in.”

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He produced statistics showing that Suffolk scored on the national average when visitors were asked about their trip to the county.

The overall satisfaction for their visit and their likelihood to recommend the county to others were above average – but their own likelihood to revisit and the “competitive advantage” they saw in the county were slightly below average.

Expressed as a figure, Suffolk’s score in the industry’s index which records visitor satisfaction is 94 – the same as the national average.

However the score in neighbouring Norfolk is higher at 97 – with the highest scores in the Lake District and Cornwall at 111 and 108 respectively.

Mr Berresford said one factor holding Suffolk back was its transport: “This area should be much easier for people to access from other parts of the country than Cornwall and the Lake District – but it doesn’t always feel like that,” he said.

The good points for Suffolk were that people feel safe in the county, find great customer service, and feel it is a clean and tidy part of the world.

One of Mr Berresford’s key messages to the conference was that the English regions needed to do more to attract foreign visitors – and Suffolk had a part to play in this.

He said: “When it comes to foreign visitors to the country, 75% of them don’t go anywhere else except London and the south east. That is something that has to be addressed.”

Suffolk Unlocked brought together tourist businesses, UCS and Visit Suffolk in a one-day conference at Trinity Park compered by EADT editor and Suffolk Agricultural Association president Terry Hunt.

The event gave businesses and business organisations the chance to share experiences and discuss issues of concern.

Other speakers included Professor Ian Baxter, head of the business school at UCS and Kurt Janson, the policy director at the Tourism Alliance – the organisation which represents tourist businesses across the country.

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