Suffolk: Tourism in frame for Olympic gold

Tourism chiefs are hailing Suffolk as an ideal place to stay as tickets today go on sale with 500 days to go to the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics.

The games could be worth millions of pounds to the county’s tourism industry as visitors look for conveniently situated accommodation outside the capital.

Today also sees the launch of a campaign to promote the region’s significance when the contests begin next July.

The location of the launch – at Ipswich railway station, by Choose Suffolk and National Express – is deliberately intended to demonstrate the town’s proximity to Stratford, the home of London 2012.

“Suffolk is in a prime position as an Olympic neighbour,” said Tim Passmore, the chief executive of Choose Suffolk. “Individuals and families coming to the Games can enjoy a fantastic holiday in our county, enjoy everything we have to offer and be about an hour away from the Olympic stadium. It is ideal.”

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Some 500,000 spectators are expected to stay in the UK for next summer’s event, with average visits lasting up to eight days and the promise of �2.34billion for the UK’s tourism industry as a whole.

“We are passionate about making sure Suffolk shares in that �2.34bn,” said Brigit Parker, marketing manager at Choose Suffolk. “We know that every county across Britain will be looking to bring a taste of London 2012 to their borders next year. We are confident that our campaign, and the work that has gone into it, really will put us ahead of the field.”

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Campaigners say Suffolk has built a “strong and robust” image for the 20,000 strong media that will converge on the UK next year, and that the county is in prime position for domestic and international visitors – half of whom will be “displaced” beyond London’s boundaries.

Suffolk already knows that members of the Olympic family will be coming to the county, with the Rwandan national team being based in Bury St Edmunds, the Azerbaijan and Brazilian gymnast teams staying in Ipswich, and the Canadian gymnasts training in Lowestoft.

Mr Passmore stressed the importance of appealing to a global audience in guaranteeing Suffolk benefits from the Olympics. “With only 500 days to go the Games are literally just around the corner,” he added.

“From today onwards, the countdown is really on and we need to ensure as a county we do all we can to be part of the Olympic legacy.”

Alan Boagey, station manager for National Express East Anglia, said: “We are pleased to support this campaign. Suffolk is an ideal place to stay during the Olympics, not only will visitors be able to enjoy everything this beautiful county has to offer, but they will be in easy travelling distance of the Olympic stadium, with journey times of about an hour. ”

Choose Suffolk is encouraging local businesses to improve their customer service skills in preparation for the Games.

The “On Our Marks – Suffolk Businesses 2012 Ready” campaign sets out to develop excellent customer service skills among staff, managers and supervisors.

The campaign’s Suzanne Anderson said: “Suffolk’s businesses need to seize the unique opportunity from this massive publicity to attract and retain customers and the millions of pounds of income they could bring the county, by preparing now to promote and offer a superior customer experience.”

Suffolk County Council’s Sport, Culture, Diversity, Health and Wellbeing chief, Kathy Gosling, backed the campaign, saying: “The Games provide a wonderful opportunity to showcase Suffolk to both domestic and international visitors, not only in 2012 itself but also in the years following the Games. I would like to congratulate Choose Suffolk on their 2012 campaign and the proactive approach they have taken to use the Games to secure a tourism legacy for the county.”

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