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Tourism chief hails ‘seismic shift’ in outsiders’ views of East Anglia as bookings soar

13:56 12 February 2016

The Horning Water Carnival return to the Broads after a 10 year break with decorated boats taking to the River Bure for a day of family fun. Money raised through the event will go to building a new school hall at Horning primary school and raise awareness for Macmillan Cancer Support.

Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The Horning Water Carnival return to the Broads after a 10 year break with decorated boats taking to the River Bure for a day of family fun. Money raised through the event will go to building a new school hall at Horning primary school and raise awareness for Macmillan Cancer Support. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Archant Norfolk 2015

East Anglian tourism has finally “got its act together” and is now reaping the rewards, according to an industry leader.

Simon Altham, managing director of Hoseasons. Picture: SUPPLIED.Simon Altham, managing director of Hoseasons. Picture: SUPPLIED.

Hoseasons managing director Simon Altham said investment in better transport links such as the A11, upgraded broadband, higher-quality accommodation and new attractions had sparked a “seismic shift” in the way the region is seen nationally.

His optimistic assessment came as the Lowestoft-based company announced its best January on record, with UK bookings up 15pc year on year.

The East of England proved one of the standout regions with an increase of 17pc, while bookings for boating breaks on the Broads rose 20pc during the same period.

Mr Altham said: “There’s no one-dimensional reason for this: we are doing great because of a long-term trend and also because Norfolk has very much got its act together, whether it be roads or businesses.

Companies can have their say about the state of the region’s tourism industry in the Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey.

The 10th annual survey aims to paint a picture of an industry which is valued at around £7bn to Norfolk and Suffolk’s economies.

It focuses on how businesses have performed over the past year, their use of marketing and social media, recruitment of staff and customer trends, as well as asking about the

impact of Cut Tourism VAT campaign, pension auto-enrolment and the National Living Wage.

Businesses can complete the survey by going to www.tourismsurveys.co.uk by February 28.

“It’s phenomenal and suggests that we are a destination county.

“There has been so much investment by holiday operators in
Norfolk and Suffolk to improve accommodation and invest in facilities. That’s now starting to reap rewards.”

Mr Altham said the dualled A11 had cut journey times by up to an hour in peak periods, while a new mobile-responsive website and early-year offers had contributed to a surge in popularity of short breaks.

With a major customer base in the Midlands, and the Norwich Northern Distributor Road on the way, pushing on with improvements to the A47 was the next infrastructure priority, he added.

Other travel operators such as as Easyjet and Thomas Cook owner TUI have reported falling bookings as a result of terrorist attacks in Egypt, Turkey and Tunisia, but Mr Altham said he believed those customers were opting for “safer” overseas destinations rather than East
Anglia.

Mr Altham’s view of the region’s progress was echoed by Chris Scargill, partner at Larking Gowen, who said he expected the value of tourism to Norfolk’s economy to top £3bn in 2016.

“The perception is that it’s easier to access, and perception becomes reality when people visit,” he said, adding that holiday-makers were booking earlier to avoid missing out.

“We’ve seen businesses continually investing in what they have on offer and as a result there’s something different all the time.”

Are you making an investment? Email mark.shields@archant.co.uk

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