Suffolk tourism lags behind neighbours
TOURISM in East Anglia could be given a huge boost - but only if residents want people to visit, it has been claimed. Sir Michael Lickiss, chairman of VisitBritain, the organisation formed to promote Britain to the rest of the world and England to the British, said the industry in Suffolk and north Essex would only expand if people in the counties give their backing.
TOURISM in East Anglia could be given a huge boost - but only if residents want people to visit, it has been claimed.
Sir Michael Lickiss, chairman of VisitBritain, the organisation formed to promote Britain to the rest of the world and England to the British, said the industry in Suffolk and north Essex would only expand if people in the counties give their backing.
Currently tourism is worth about £5billion per year to the East of England's economy and employs more than 185,000 people.
The region, which comprises Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex, Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire, is the fourth most popular in the country with visitors.
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However Suffolk is lagging behind its county neighbours and only receives 10% of the tourism trips. Essex, which has the highest volume and value of day visits, has a 20% share and Norfolk dominates with 28%.
But Sir Michael, who was at Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge, yesterday as part of nationwide tour, said: "I am not sure people want to encourage more people in. I think there's a misconception that the place will be ruined if they attract too many tourists."
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He said that Essex and Suffolk would see an increase in their share "if they want to."
"They have got to want to and they have got to do it properly," he added.
"The community has to be committed to it or not complain when it does not get its fair share.
"It brings money to the area. It brings wealth and employment to the area and helps people who are travelling long distances to get a job locally."
Sir Michael said East Anglia could easily have a large slice of the multi-billion pound tourism industry boom worldwide.
He said: "In the world picture tourism is expanding at about 4 to 5% every year so we can therefore expect tourism in this country, which is currently worth £76billion, to be worth £100billion by 2010.
"But whether any local area benefits will depend largely upon whether they have got the right skilled people and are they offering a good quality product.
"Any area is now competing with the rest of the world and not just the bit next door."
Tess Wright, managing director of the East of England Tourist Board, said that Suffolk was "a bit of a hidden gem" and offered countryside retreats for people desiring a relaxing and peaceful time, fashionable seaside resorts and places appealing to overseas visitors, particularly Americans interested in wartime airbases.
She added: "I think we are going to see an increase in the domestic tourism anyway and Suffolk will increase its share of visitors provided that the local authorities and the Suffolk Development Agency continue to invest in tourism."
Richard Ellis, chairman of the East of England Development Agency, said: "Suffolk is underplayed in tourism terms, as are other parts of the region. Essex has an image issue, which is historical, that does not particularly attract visitors even though north Essex has Constable country and places like Colchester."