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Swap to staycation: Norfolk's alternatives to European hotspots

PUBLISHED: 10:25 28 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:39 28 March 2019

Norfolks tourism sector is booming  driven in part by a rise in staycations as Brits look to stay closer to home instead of venturing out. Picture: JP Appleton

Norfolks tourism sector is booming  driven in part by a rise in staycations as Brits look to stay closer to home instead of venturing out. Picture: JP Appleton

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With the constant back-and-forth at Westminster it's become easy to forget Brexit should have happened this week.

Why not swap thef Chateau de Versailles for Sandringham? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphotoWhy not swap thef Chateau de Versailles for Sandringham? Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

But is there a silver lining to the uncertainty created by the unstable negotiations between Britain and its former EU counterparts?

Norfolk’s tourism sector is booming – driven in part by a rise in staycations as Brits look to stay closer to home instead of venturing out.

The same is true nationally - with the latest figures published by the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions reporting a 9% boost in footfall.

Tourism is Norfolk’s largest industry sector – worth more than £3.25bn every year, and whose 65,000 staff makes up 18% of employment in the county.

Sandringham House. Picture: Ian BurtSandringham House. Picture: Ian Burt

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Pete Waters is the executive director of Visit East of England, and says that stretching money is just one of the reasons tourists are choosing to travel domestically.

“There has been a rise in staycations, particularly with the lower value of sterling making it more expensive to travel abroad,” Mr Waters said.

“The additional benefit of that is that it means Norfolk is better value for overseas visitors. “We’ve also got the best overall climate in the country, our excellent accommodation is less than a third of the cost of areas such as the South West, and we have a fantastic visitor offering that can be enjoyed year-round.”

Holkham Hall is another major Norfolk landmark to visit Picture: Lesley BuckleyHolkham Hall is another major Norfolk landmark to visit Picture: Lesley Buckley

Brexit has undoubtedly contributed to these figures, though Mr Waters added that “the growth of Norfolk’s visitor economy has been outstripping England for a few years. Since 2012, Norfolk’s visitor economy has grown 14%, England’s 8% and Suffolk’s 6%.”

Mr Waters is also sure tourism in Norfolk will remain stable and sustained – whatever the outcome of Brexit.

“The growth over the past few years suggests that the visitor economy can continue its trajectory,” he said.

“Our transport infrastructure is improving, with a £1.5bn Greater Anglia investment in new rolling stock and services, London Stansted recently getting the green light on a £600m upgrade and Norwich Airport continuing to be one of the best connected in the country.

There is plenty on offer on a Norfolk staycation. Picture: Ian BurtThere is plenty on offer on a Norfolk staycation. Picture: Ian Burt

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“Plus there’s been more than £50m of investment from visitor attractions in the past two years, much of that weather-proofing. So there is clearly optimism that the tourism, hospitality and travel sectors will continue to grow.”

And if you’re looking for a staycation, why not...

Why not swap Cyprus for Cromer? Picture: ArchantWhy not swap Cyprus for Cromer? Picture: Archant

Swap Cyprus for Cromer?

Swapping Mediterranean islands for the north Norfolk coast is an experience that many holiday makers may be making.

But for Cromer district councillor Andreas Yiasimi, whose family are from Cyprus, it was a lifelong decision he was glad to make.

Mr Yiasimi said: “I think Cromer is just magical. The families here have been here for generations, and each have a bit of history to share. The towns and villages in north Norfolk all have a different story to tell.

Golden Sands Beach in Northern Cyprus.  Pic: Lena Day. lena.day@rooster.co.ukGolden Sands Beach in Northern Cyprus. Pic: Lena Day. lena.day@rooster.co.uk

“We have blue flag beaches which are crisp clean, we’ve got so much to do that I’m still discovering things – and I’ve lived here for almost four decades.”

Cromer is also home to the iconic pier, as well as seaside shops, fresh seafood, and beautiful scenery.

Mr Yiasimi added that the events organised are also spectacular: “It’s easy to forget that we have one of the biggest carnivals in the UK here. These thing don’t just happen, it’s the magic of the people that make them work.”

Swap the Seine for Sandringham?

Instead of walking along the Siene before hopping on a train to Versailles, why not talk a Nordic walk in Hunstanton before visiting Sandringham?

The Queen’s country retreat is on the doorstep of Hunstanton, and draws media attention from around the world as the place where the Royal family spend their Christmas.

Amanda Bosworth is the mayor of Hunstanton, and said: “It’s a privilege to have something like this on your doorstep and not just in London. Our theatre here is called the Princess Theatre, after Princess Dianna who used to bring her boys here when they were young.”

Ms Bosworth continued: “People are so surprised with how relaxed it is up here. They’re amazed you can just drive up to the house and go into the church which the Queen and the rest of the family visits.

“The thing I am told the most is that people feel very relaxed here – they can come and see the big skies and the beautiful sunsets, as well as enjoying the history.”

Swap Venice for the Broads?

It’s easy to avoid a landing tax if you’re happy to swap the streets of Venice for the Broads of Norfolk.

Save yourself a tenner and still spend your day on a private boat, hopping from pub to pub and taking in the wildlife.

Tom Waterfall, communications officer at the Broads Authority, said: “Stretching across Norfolk and into Suffolk, the Broads National Park really is unlike any other landscape in the UK.

“There’s seven rivers, 60+ areas of open water and over 200km of navigable waterways, making it an amazing destination to explore by water and land.”

He continued: “It is Britain’s largest protected wetland and has a mosaic of important habitats including wild marshes, rich fenlands, wet woodlands and more. These habitats are havens for wildlife, with over a quarter of the UK’s rarest species residing in the area including bitterns, water voles and the UK’s largest butterfly – the swallowtail.”

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