The Brexit effect? Early signs are that Norfolk and Suffolk tourism has actually been boosted by European Union vote

PUBLISHED: 13:29 18 May 2017 | UPDATED: 10:44 19 May 2017

Broads Tourism chairman and CEO of Richardson's Boating Holidays, Greg Munford. 

Broads Tourism chairman and CEO of Richardson's Boating Holidays, Greg Munford. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY 2016


Fears the Brexit vote would impact negatively on the number of foreign tourists coming to the region have proved unfounded, with some signs the opposite has in fact happened.

Pete Waters of Visit East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYPete Waters of Visit East Anglia. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Three local tourism bodies said the decrease in the value of the pound meant it was now cheaper to visit the country and international visitors were taking advantage.

Despite this, East Anglia tourism businesses and organisations said they were still firmly focussed on encouraging people closer to home to visit the region.

Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Bid, said there had been concerns at a national level that Brexit would impact on the number of visitors to the UK from outside the country.

He added: “What we’ve seen is an increase in certain levels of tourism where we had anticipated Brexit could have a negative impact. In actual fact, the decrease in the value of the pound has seen more people (from outside the country) come here.”

Sunset over the River Thurne on the Norfolk Broads Picture: James BassSunset over the River Thurne on the Norfolk Broads Picture: James Bass

Visit East Anglia executive director Pete Waters said there was plenty of “anecdotal” evidence to back claims that there was an increase in overseas visitors.

He said promotional campaigns held last year in Holland and The Hague had helped raise the profile of the region. “We’re growing in popularity with Dutch and German visitors – and even the French,” he said.

While it was important to keep promoting the area in Europe, he said they still had to focus available resources on the local market. “We know that we need to focus on the three hour drive time holidaymaker due to limited marketing expenditure available,” he said. “You get more bang for your buck.”

Greg Munford, chairman of Broads Tourism, which has more than 110 members, said the local tourist market was still their primary concern. “Our focus right now is trying to convert the day visitor to the stay visitor,” he said. “However, it would be remiss of us to ignore the international market and we will look to get involved in various initiatives that market the Broads to overseas visitors.”

Visit Norwich head of tourism Nick Bond said it was reasonable to conclude there had been an increase in inbound tourists but cautioned that the long term impact of Brexit on arrivals was difficult to tell.

Tourism by the numbers

A recent survey of 20,000 consumers in 20 countries by GFK Anholt found that the views of potential overseas visitors to the UK had changed little since the Brexit referendum.

The study, which ranks 50 countries, showed that the UK’s overall brand ranking is third behind Germany and the USA, while in terms of tourism, the UK is the 5th most popular destination.

A total of 23m (67%) visitors to the UK come from other EU destinations and they contribute around £10bn to the economy each year. In total, inbound tourism to the UK is worth £25bn per year. Despite this, a Tourism and Leisure Business Survey conducted by Larking Gowen Chartered Accountants revealed that 81pc of respondents from Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex admitted they did not target any marketing spend towards overseas visitors.

Of that figure, 30pc of respondents believed it was not worth it, 12pc said it was something that should be done at national level and 39pc felt it should be done at regional level.

Chris Scargill of Larking Gowen said it was difficult for individual buisnesses to market themselves in foreign countries. “Businesses should be looking to join and support campaigns at a regional level that target overseas visitors,” he said.

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