‘Goldilocks’ effect strikes as weather takes its toll on tourism industry
Tourism businesses in East Anglia have revealed how they suffered in 2018 from too much rain, sun and snow during key times.
The MHA Larking Gowen Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Business Survey found last year's extreme weather - including a soggy Easter, the Beast from the East snow storm and the scorching summer - had a negative impact on businesses.
Many in the industry have dubbed 2018 a "Goldilocks year".
In fact the sector suffered the worst reported turnover for six years although 40% said profits had increased.
Nearly a third predicted profits would fall further this year with just 16% planning to expand.
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The results paint an overall bleak picture of how businesses fared in the region but some optimism remains and the realisation of the need to invest further.
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The findings of the key issues affecting the region's tourism, leisure and hospitality sector are being revealed today following the major survey launched three months ago.
But it was not the weather alone that made 2018 tough for firms - business rates and rising rents as well as staffing costs also hit many companies hard.
Chris Scargill, tourism, leisure and hospitality partner with MHA Larking Gowen, said: "I still fear there is a belief that tourism just happens. It doesn't and no single business, organisation or region can go it alone to grow tourism.
"We need to work together, business with business, organisation with organisation for the greater good. We should not compete with each other but remind ourseslves that we are competing with other tourism regions both in the UK and abroad."
The results range from detailed analysis of business performance, marketing spend and use of social media, staff retention and how Brexit has made an impact.
Although many businesses would have hoped for fine weather in the summer months ironically the prolonged period of intense heat actually had a negative impact.
Mr Scargill said: "While the perception was that the sunshine and heat was good for business, the reality for some was yet a further blow. From people choosing to enjoy free days out at the beach to less people wanting three course meals, it affected trade.
"Many businesses say the weather is a leading concern and in response, we have seen substantial investment in weather-proofing attractions, combined with marketing of the great outdoors and educating visitors that there is no such thing as bad weather - just bad clothing.
"Ultimately in this battle we are slowly winning, as the visitor economy in our region continues to grow as a year-round destination.
"There's still optimism and a desire and need to invest."
Other issues affecting businesses included the impact of Brexit on visitor numbers from overseas and staffing concerns. The National Living Wage and National Minimum Wage saw above inflation increases, another detrimental effect, and some businesses planned cuts or put up their prices as a result, the survey outlined.
Businesses locally are, however, doing their bit for the environment with the majority reducing their plastic usage and with a call for more support from the government. And although some felt they could not grow further, 85% felt there was still capacity.
"There are hurdles ahead to address but I do believe in the need for these organisations and urge businesses to play their part," said Mr Scargill.
Among the things businesses said they worried most about in 2018 were the added costs of new legislation along with bureaucratic 'red tape' and the threat of cheaper European holidays as well as finding a buyer for a business going on.
Mr Scargill added: "While some felt capacity was being reached in some areas, the majority (85%) felt there was still plenty of room to grow. This is where working together plays a part and there should be some concern that there are a large number of businesses not engaged with their local Destination Marketing Organisations or regional brands.
"There are hurdles ahead to address some of their concerns, but I do believe in the need for these organisations and urge businesses to play their part, so we have given, once again, a voice to a range of the brands and DMOs to highlight what they are doing."
The report will be presented to businesses at events today in Norwich - at Barnham Broom, Honingham Road - and Ipswich tomorrow at Kesgrave Hall. Both events start at 1.30pm and all are welcome.
To view the whole survey click here.