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Drive to attract American visitors with region’s wartime links gets £240,000 government boost

PUBLISHED: 11:39 20 October 2016 | UPDATED: 11:39 20 October 2016

USAAF men during the war (at Shipdham?)

USAAF men during the war (at Shipdham?)

Archant

A major tourism campaign focusing on the region’s wartime links with America has benefited from almost £240,000 in government cash.

Significant impact of invasion

Mr Waters said the friendly invasion made the greatest “change to landscape and culture” in East Anglia’s history.

Seventy-one airfields were built in a matter of months, introducing hundreds of miles of concrete to the region’s greenery.

The Americans also brought over goods we now take for granted - including chewing gum, peanut butter and nylons.

But segregation was also part of the invasion - with black and white servicemen often not permitted to mix.

It meant that in some towns, airbases alternated between being home to black and white airmen on different days.

Visit East Anglia, working alongside other tourism bodies in the east, will launch The Friendly Invasion in the new year in a bid to encourage more American visitors to explore the region.

It will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the 180,000 American servicemen who were at home in the east during the Second World War and will include themed events and tours of the airbases.

It was announced yesterday that the £387,000 scheme had received £237,000 from the government’s £40m Discover England cash pot. Pete Waters, Visit East Anglia director, said: “We’re delighted to receive this award and to be able to create a new product that will bring more American visitors to this region.

“Although we already have a few Americans coming to East Anglia to remember the service and sacrifices of their fellow nationals, this will be the first time we have actually taken the friendly invasion and all it encompasses directly to the US.”

Dutch campaign contributed millions

A drive to attract Dutch visitors to the east, launched earlier this year, saw more than 11,000 trips to Norfolk and Suffolk soil.

The Visit East Anglia GREAT Dutch campaign launched in the New Year and targeted the Netherlands with online promotional films and itineraries, as well as digital advertising in the country’s media.

A survey undertaken afterwards suggested that 11,068 trips were directly influenced by the campaign, made up of 8,093 overnight stays and 2,975 day trips.

It is thought these generated £2.3m - 21 times the original investment of £106,000.

Originally, tourism chiefs hoped the scheme would nudge up the number of Dutch tourists by 2pc.

The most commonly visited attractions during the campaign were Norwich Cathedral, Holkham Hall and Blakeney Point.

The work will be promoted through well-used memorial societies, while East Anglian tourism chiefs will attend conferences in America.

US travel operators, who will be given bookable travel itineraries, have also been invited to explore the east on so-called ‘familiarisation’ trips.

David Cain, who will manage the project, said: “I am thrilled to be working with Visit East Anglia on this new product.

“In every village, town and city in East Anglia there’s a story to share about this important time.

Glenn Miller Band playing at USAAF base at Holton, near Halesworth.Glenn Miller Band playing at USAAF base at Holton, near Halesworth.

“The social and landscape impact alone is something we have not experienced before, or since. Seventy-five years ago the world came to East Anglia. In 2017 we’d like to welcome them back.”

Visit East Anglia, and other local tourism bodies, will also be involved in Passport to the Coast, another project which will benefit from Discover England funding.

It will see the National Coastal Tourism Academy work to attract more visitors to the east coast.

• Do you have a tourism story we should be writing? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

The Larking Gowen Tourism survey results seminar. Pete Waters of Visit East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Larking Gowen Tourism survey results seminar. Pete Waters of Visit East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

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