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Successful draw to bring Dutch tourists to East Anglia part of drive to boost region’s profile overseas

PUBLISHED: 07:00 15 March 2016 | UPDATED: 17:01 15 March 2016

Left to right, Visit East Anglia executive director Pete Waters, British Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir Geoffrey Adams and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership managing director Chris Starkie outside the Residency with the Lotus Elise and Evora.

Left to right, Visit East Anglia executive director Pete Waters, British Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir Geoffrey Adams and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership managing director Chris Starkie outside the Residency with the Lotus Elise and Evora.

Archant

A £150,000 drive to draw Dutch tourists to East Anglia has marked the beginning of a push to raise the region’s profile overseas.

A long-standing connection

In medieval times it took just one day to sail to Holland and four to travel to London.

The relationship began with fish trade, but flourished in the 13th century when wool was exported through the Broads to the weaves of Flanders, according to Visit Norfolk.

In the 1560s refugee Flemish weavers, fleeing the inquisition in the Spanish Netherlands, helped with domestic cloth-making, and brought with them their now-famous Canaries.

Although they were welcomed, they were known as ‘strangers’ and became namesake of Norwich’s Strangers’ Hall.

In the 1650s, a Dutch engineer directed major projects to drain the Fens, which saw sluices built to control the flow of water, connecting villages that had formerly been islands.

Through to the 18th century, Norwich was a cultural capital, heavily settled by those who had come over the North Sea, including the Dutch.

Today, Dutch architecture, such as gable ends, can be found across Norfolk, particularly in Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn.

In the New Year, Visit East Anglia launched the two-month project to raise the number of visitors from the Netherlands by 2pc, a figure which would equate to about £1m for the local economy.

Last week, it came to a close with a reception at the British Embassy Residency in The Hague, at which dozens of business figures, travel bosses and journalists were encouraged to journey across the north Sea.

VEA, which manages Visit Norfolk and Visit Suffolk, hailed the initiative as a success and said it hoped to run a series of similar campaigns overseas, including one to draw in American visitors.

Pete Waters, VEA executive director, said: “Despite our shared history, there is low awareness of Norfolk and Suffolk in the Netherlands so this campaign is our first step to address that.

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership managing director Chris Starkie presenting to guests at the event.New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership managing director Chris Starkie presenting to guests at the event.

“It was great to bring to a Dutch audience not just our superb visitor offering, but also our strong transport and travel links, excellent food and drink. Tourism can be the catalyst to start raising the profile of East Anglia overseas.”

During the project, which was part of the government’s GREAT Britain Campaign, promotional films, itineraries and advertising were targeted at Dutch visitors, while VEA extolled the virtues of the eastern region at a tourism exhibition.

At last week’s reception, hosted by the British Ambassador to the Netherlands Sir Geoffrey Adams, local food and drink suppliers Adnams, Kettle Chips and Frank Dale Foods were on the menu, while two Lotus sports cars made an appearance.

Martin Dupee, chairman of Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions Association, said: “It was wonderful to see so many Dutch representatives interested in what East Anglia has to offer. This was a great event to start what I am sure will be a conduit towards a stronger relationship with visitors coming from the Netherlands to see our amazing part of the world.”

VEA received £75,000 from the GREAT UK Challenge Fund, which supports initiatives working alongside the government campaign, and £25,000 from Stena Line and Abellio Greater Anglia towards the scheme.

The project was supported by the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, Visit Britain, UK Trade & Investment, Stena Line and Abellio Greater Anglia.

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

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