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Slump in the pound could see a sterling year for regional tourism

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A slump in the pound giving visitors more for their money could see the region enjoy a bumper year for tourism.

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The drop in the value of sterling since the Brexit referendum in June has seen inbound tourists’ budgets stretch further.

And Visit Britain has said the favourable rate could see visitor spending in 2017 jump by a massive 8.1pc on last year nationally - up to £24.1bn.

In the east, the visitor economy is already buoyant, with Norfolk tourism worth more than £3bn for the first time in 2015 and businesses reporting strong seasons.

But Vanessa Scott, who owns Strattons Hotel in Swaffham, said holidaymakers staying away from Europe was likely to further bolster the upwards trend.

She said: “Lately, we’ve seen more and more people not going to Europe because of unrest.

“Instead, they are choosing to look around at home. The variety of the countryside, and the different things to do, seems to be a big pull and Norfolk is well-positioned to take advantage.

View from the top of Southwold lighthouse looking across the town.
August 2013

Picture: James BassView from the top of Southwold lighthouse looking across the town. August 2013 Picture: James Bass

“Bookings are buoyant for this year and we are seeing even people who can afford to fly long-haul and travel further afield choosing to come here.”

Martin Dupee, chairman of Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions (NSTA), said financial turbulence often resulted in a trend of staying closer to home.

“There is certainly an indication that in a time of financial uncertainty, domestic tourism does well,” he said.

“It seems as though we are probably heading for a very strong year, I’m quite confident on that.”

Mr Dupee, director of operations at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, said traditional factors, including weather, were still important and that there was always a degree of caution, but, on the whole, tourism firms felt positive.

In particular, he said, work was ongoing with the NSTA and Visit East Anglia to attract visitors from the Netherlands.

Strattons Hotel owner Vanessa Scott. Picture: Ian BurtStrattons Hotel owner Vanessa Scott. Picture: Ian Burt

Since the Brexit referendum, the sterling has hovered at its lowest level against the dollar for more than 30 years.

While tourist spending will be increased by a 2.7pc inflation rise this year, Visit Britain says the 10pc-plus fall in the value of the pound against the euro and the dollar means tourists’ budgets were now stretching further.

The slump in the pound is a key factor behind its forecast figures, which predicts that there will be 38.1m visitors to the UK in 2017 - a 4pc increase on last year.

Visit Britain believes, in terms of spending, this will equate to £24.1bn - a significant rise of 8.1pc on 2016.

It is a rate of growth faster than the country has seen in recent years. In 2011, spending rose by 7pc.

Sailing in the Broads.  Picture: James BassSailing in the Broads. Picture: James Bass

But the forecast adds that future changes in the rate were a “major uncertainty”.

“The ongoing value of the pound itself is a key uncertainty and will depend on several factors,” it says. “These include the status of EU and trade negotiations throughout the year as well as monetary policy actions taken by the Bank of England and other major central banks abroad.

It adds: “Flight bookings data suggest that arrivals to the UK for November, December and early 2017 are likely to be up year-on-year.”

A quirk in the 2017 calendar means holidaymakers will be able to enjoy two bank holiday weekends just two weeks apart.

Many workers in the UK will be able to take an 18-day break by using nine days of annual leave between Good Friday, On April 14, and May Day on May 1.

It means that tourism bosses are anticipating a bumper period of trade, particularly in towns and cities holding events in that period, including celebrations to mark the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birthday.

Patricia Yates, director of national tourism agency Visit Britain, said: “Record numbers of Brits have been taking holidays at home this year and we anticipate that this will continue in 2017 due to the certainty of budgeting for a domestic holiday and the sheer diversity of events and attractions on offer.

“The Easter break and May bank holiday weekend are a chance for people to make the most of their annual leave dates and enjoy a great British holiday whether on a seaside, countryside or city break.”

Next year’s festive period also falls favourably - with December 23 and 24 falling on a weekend, holidaymakers can enjoy 10 days off between Christmas and New Year by booking three days off from December 27 to 29.

Do you have a tourism story? Email lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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