‘We haven’t got enough boats’ - Broads day trip and holiday demand booms
PUBLISHED: 06:30 24 July 2020
Summer is in full swing on the Norfolk Broads as boat and holiday operators see such a surge in visitors there are “not enough boats”.
Phones have been ringing off the hook, joined by a boom in online bookings, at boat yards and providers all along the Broads.
The tourist destination has always proven popular in the summer, but the area is seeing more local custom following a government announcement on July 4 allowing boat owners and hirers to stay overnight.
Weeks before, the Broads had seen an increase in day visitors, resulting in operators heading into their usually busy summer period with confidence.
James Knight, managing director of Waveney River Centre, at Burgh St Peter, said the business has been inundated with requests for the last seven weeks.
Mr Knight, who is also a director of Norfolk Broad Tours, in Wroxham, said they have had to “reinvent everything they have ever done” for safety reasons, but said some of the processes could stay post-coronavirus.
He said: “We have always prided ourselves on customer services and a friendly face, but at the moment that is the last thing you want.
“In both businesses we have far more demand than we can fulfil which is great, but we spend most of our time saying sorry we are full.
“We are trying to forget the horrors of lockdown in terms of the loss of income. We are looking forward and maximising what we do. We cannot sell the same holiday twice we can only work with what we have got.
“We are very busy, very positive and optimistic. We have tried to use the lockdown experience as a way of looking at what we were doing.”
At Barnes Brinkcraft, in Wroxham, its website has almost “imploded” since being able to resume business.
Sara Thwaites, marketing manager at Barnes Brinkcraft, said: “Our staff have been brilliant and have done their best to cope with almost overwhelming demand during the new normal.
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“We haven’t got nearly enough boats to meet current demand. People are enjoying the weather and booking early, especially for weekends. It’s lovely to see people bringing their canoes, boards and wetsuits with them and I believe companies hiring out bikes, dinghies, kayaks and paddleboards are also doing very well this year, which is lovely to see.”
She said business is extending past the busy summer holidays until the end of September and October.
The marketing manager added: “We are seeing quite a few new visitors to the Broads and we are delighted to hear them tell us they will be back again next year.”
Further down the Broads at Ludham, Swallowtail Boatyard has also had to turn custom away due to the strength of demand.
The family owned business, which is run by Colin, Wendy and Paul Buttifant, is already taking bookings for next year, with its fleet of four sailing boats booked until the end of the season in October.
The business which also manages many private boats saw a surge in customers phoning up to say they were heading back to the water when it was announced day trips were allowed.
Colin Buttifant, who has been a boat maker since he was 15, said: “People who have booked earlier in the year as soon as lockdown came in, they were booking boats for later in the year hoping everything would open up again.
“There have been one or two people wanting to book and it’s a shame we haven’t got anything, they are all spoken for.”
As part of its measures, the fleet will be taken out, usually on a week-long trip, and on its return will spend a week ashore before the next hirer.
Mr Buttifant added: “We give it a deep clean so when it goes out again it is in first class condition.
“It has been very good, we live on site and we would walk around the yard and walk up to the river where there were no boats going up and down and you would think ‘this can’t be right’. Now the river is getting very busy.”
Along at Sutton Staithe, the boat yard says the busy period will help them recoup profits.
A spokesperson for Sutton Staithe Boat Yard said: “We’re completely swamped - the number of people who have rang up today to ask if we have any boats available [is very high]. But no we’re completely fully booked.
“It’s wonderful really because it will help us to recoup some of the losses from the last few months. It’s really great news for us.”
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