Tourism bosses hopeful of good year

AN “EXTRAORDINARY” surge in demand for holiday accommodation in Suffolk will provide an estimated �5million boost to the county's economy this year.

Lizzie Parry

AN “EXTRAORDINARY” surge in demand for holiday accommodation in Suffolk will provide an estimated �5million boost to the county's economy this year.

Tourism bosses are optimistic as forward bookings for self catering cottages during the summer season have seen a boost compared with last year.

And with the current economic picture looking gloomy and the pound struggling against the euro more people are opting for a trip to the British seaside rather than travelling abroad.

Alex Paul, tourism manager at Choose Suffolk Tourism Partnership, said the busy Bank Holiday weekend was a positive indicator that Suffolk tourism was booming.

“Like for like business is up on last year and it is looking very positive,” he said.

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“People have been used to great exchange rates and cheap and frequent flights abroad, so cheap weekend breaks in Europe were very accessible and easy.

“But the barriers to foreign trips are stronger now, flights are more expensive and not as frequent and the exchange rates are no longer in our favour so people are reassessing their options.”

Tourism is worth �1.6billion to the Suffolk economy and one holiday lettings company, Suffolk Secrets, predict an extra �5million will be generated as a result of the boom this year.

Mr Paul said while it was difficult to put an exact figure on the extra revenue, local businesses will directly benefit from more people visiting the region.

“It is very important to recognise the impact tourism has on local small businesses. In Suffolk there are lots of small businesses at the heart of the community that are supported, from B&B's to restaurants to self catering cottages,” he said.

And Noel Byrne, chairman of the Choose Suffolk Tourism Partnership, added: “It is not just the tourism economy that will benefit.

“Secondary spending by visitors to the county will boost local businesses as people visit high streets, local destinations and attractions, bars and restaurants.

“It is great news all round, the boost will extend way beyond just the hotels and B&B's.”

He said he was “cautiously optimistic” but the recent surge bodes well for the coming summer.

“The figures coming out so far are presenting a very, very optimistic picture. Forward bookings are definitely up.”

With this year set to be a bumper summer, bosses are conscious of the fact they must not rest on their laurels but aim to build on the success enjoyed so far.

Mr Paul said: “We do not want this year to be a blip, we should not take for granted the opportunities afforded us right now.

“Suffolk is a fantastic place and a great tourism product. We want to grab people and encourage them to come back.

“There is a lot of competition but people will have a summer holiday, they may put off buying a new car or kitchen but they will still get away and we need to get the message across that if you are looking for a break in the UK Suffolk is the place to come for great value for money.”

Naomi Tarry, owner of Best of Suffolk lettings agency, who has seen a bookings boom added: “The Suffolk seaside is going to be hugely popular this year as people realise how expensive it is to go abroad this year.

“But we don't want this year to be a one off, we want to excite people and encourage them back year on year, letting people in on the secrets Suffolk has to offer.”

Holiday accommodation specialists Suffolk Secrets said it had seen a boost in bookings from European visitors.

James Ellis, marketing director, said: “This year we are expecting more than 23,000 visitors to stay in the 250 properties we represent.

“Overseas bookings at Suffolk Secrets have tripled compared to the same period in 2008.”