Tourism boom to boost jobs

SUFFOLK'S unique appeal and potential as a holiday destination is to be marketed nationally and overseas as the county continues to enjoy a tourist boom.

SUFFOLK'S unique appeal and potential as a holiday destination is to be marketed nationally and overseas as the county continues to enjoy a tourist boom.

One in four new jobs currently being created in Suffolk is tourism-related and details of a major promotional campaign to market the county more effectively were unveiled yesterday.

Tim Rowan-Robinson, chairman of the Suffolk Tourism Partnership (STP), said 2003 had been "a great year for tourism in Suffolk", with the county having had the best of the "fantastic" summer weather.

Tourism was among the fastest-growing sectors of the East of England economy and is now ranked as the fifth largest in Suffolk, employing 25,000 people.

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This figure represented an increase of 39% in the last five years, said Mr Rowan-Robinson, and growth was continuing.

The Suffolk Tourism Partnership, which brings together parties from the public and private sectors, staged a conference entitled Destination Suffolk, at the Suffolk Showground, to highlight the role already played by tourism in the local economy - and the potential for further growth.

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Among the plans for 2004 are campaigns to promote the county as a destination for short breaks and rural tourism, targeting visitors regionally, nationally and internationally.

The role of tourism in the county's economy had received recognition in Easton Farm Park's success in the 2003 Anglian Business Awards, following that of Southwold brewers Adnams the previous year.

There had also been evidence in the past year of Suffolk achieving greater recognition nationally as a visitor destination, including the choice of an image of Southwold for the front cover of a VisitBritain strategy leaflet.

The aim for 2004 was for Suffolk to exceed national forecasts for tourism growth, in both volume and value, added Mr Rowan-Robinson.

Three working groups were now addressing the issues of further raising awareness of Suffolk as a destination, redesigning and improving the county's tourism presence on the internet and boosting rural tourism.

Scott Dolling, who was recruited by the Suffolk Development Agency last October as marketing manager, said that series of campaign themes would be adopted to promote Suffolk.

The priorities identified for 2004 were short breaks and rural tourism - both growing sectors, which were of relevance across the county. The short breaks market was also relevant to tourism businesses of all types while rural tourism would help to promote visitor spend away from the main "honeypots".

Extensive PR activity was planned within the East of England while London, the South-East and Midlands would be targeted through regional press campaigns.

Suffolk would also feature prominently this year in the campaigns of Visit Britain, promoting the county's attractions nationally and internationally, he added.

Also among the speakers was Terry Hunt, editor of the East Anglian Daily Times, who warmly welcomed the STP's role in bringing a more co-ordinated approach to promoting the county.

A great deal of good work had been done in the past to promote particular districts or sectors but, if the county was to unlock its full tourism potential, a "joined up" approach was required - something the STP was now providing, he said.

The foot-and-mouth disease outbreak of 2001, was disastrous for farming and tourism, and had drawn the Government's attention to the rural economy and it was important now for Suffolk to grasp the resulting opportunities.

The proposed Snoasis leisure complex at Claydon, near Ipswich, a multi-million development offering the prospect of hundreds of jobs, showed the confidence of outside investors in Suffolk, he added.

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