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Tech-savvy approach will bolster drive to draw younger generations out onto the Broads

PUBLISHED: 07:30 31 August 2016 | UPDATED: 09:49 31 August 2016

A busy weekend at Ranworth staithe on the Norfolk Broads.

A busy weekend at Ranworth staithe on the Norfolk Broads.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2010

A masterplan shaping tourism across the Broads will focus on unlocking the wetlands for younger generations and bringing the area into the digital age.

Who visits the Broads?

According to a survey of tourism businesses from 2015:

• Half of visitors are couples – most of whom are over 45

• Families with children make up one third of the market

• Those families are twice as likely to have younger children - aged 11 or under - than older children

• Groups of friends account for as much of 20pc of visitors – though those over 45 are twice as likely as those under 45

Spectacular views, idyllic breaks afloat, rare wildlife and rural towns have made the waterways a fertile ground for tourism, with an industry worth £584m last year alone.

And while the traditional Broads boating holiday continues to thrive - 7.4m people explored the area in 2015 - with the majority of visitors aged 45 and above, a new strategy has listed a tech-savvy approach as key to enticing a younger demographic.

The Sustainable Tourism in the Broads report - which was adopted by the Broads Authority and Broads Tourism earlier this year - shapes how tourism develops up to 2020 and reflects on trends over the last few years.

Among its six key focuses for 2016 - which include promoting so-called ‘wildlife experiences’ - are an up to date website and strong social media platforms.

How are Broads boats changing?

• Cabin hire boats - which offer the traditional Broads holiday are still popular - but have seen a slight decline. In 2015, 885 were registered, a slight dip on 2011. There has been an marked increase in larger. luxurious cruisers.

• Day hire motor boats have also slightly declined - in 2015, 279 were licensed for hire, a small drop from 2010.

• Hire sailing crafts are declining – 108 were licensed for hire in 2015, compared to 120 in 2010 and 143 in 2006. They are outweighed by private crafts by a ratio of 7 to 1.

• Water activities, including sailing, rowing, canoeing and paddle-boarding, are an “increasingly important” part of trips. 43pc of boat hirers do some form of angling.

• Rowing boats and canoes are on the up. The number on the Broads by 60pc from 2010 to 2014, according to two boating censuses from those years. 184 were licensed for hire in 2015.

Bruce Hanson, tourism officer at the Broads Authority, said an online presence would bolster a growing number of tourists in their 20s and 30s.

He said: “Since we started using the Broads National Park branding, I have seen more and more 20 and 30-somethings come up and ask what they can do when they go to the Broads.

“The younger people who have visited seem to be surprised at what they find and to have the feedback and comments we’ve had over the last year or so has been positive. It’s definitely a priority.”

He said updating the website, www.enjoythebroads.com, was “critical” to promoting the Broads to the internet generation, and said that it was likely to have undergone a revamp by the end of the year.

It is hoped that expanding walking and cycling routes - along with a rise in water activities including canoeing and paddle-boarding - will cater to a market keen on getting out and about.

“A lot of those I have spoken to seem to be more interested in the land-based offer, so I hope we can entice them in with that and let them discover the boating and water activities as well,” Mr Hanson added.

A survey of Broads businesses used for the five-year plan revealed the “need to expand the market base for the future” was considered a challenge.

Firms hope attracting young couples and families will encourage repeat business, though many said issues including poor broadband and mobile phone signal needed to be overcome.

People on boats enjoying the sunshine on the River Wensum in Norwich.
Picture: ANTONY KELLYPeople on boats enjoying the sunshine on the River Wensum in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

The report, which can be found on the Broads Authority’s website, was put together by the body and Broads Tourism, which, made up of about 75 local businesses, will be the vehicle by which much of the strategy will be delivered.

• How do you think Broads tourism should be shaped over the coming years? Email Broads correspondent Lauren Cope at lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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