Great end to the season for Norfolk’s tourist attractions

Peter Williamson at Merrivale Model Village .Picture: James Bass

Peter Williamson at Merrivale Model Village .Picture: James Bass - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2014

Balmy October half-term weather made it 'an extremely strong end to the season' for the region's tourist attractions.

And for some businesses the Indian summer capped a record year, Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association (NTAA) annual meeting was told.

The positive news reflects the upbeat findings of Larking Gowen Chartered Accountants' latest influential quarterly tourism business survey commissioned by Visit Norfolk.

NTAA chairman Martin Dupee, who is operations director at three of the region's largest attractions - Banham Zoo, Africa Alive and Dinosaur Adventure - said: 'October half-term was superb with the weather on the side of outdoor attractions.

'For us, and right across the country, reports have confirmed an extremely strong end to the season.'

Despite the blip of rainy weather during the peak weeks of August, Dinosaur Adventure (more than 260,000 visitors) and Africa Alive (more than 155,000 visitors) were both heading for record years while Banham Zoo (200,000 visitors) was set for its second best year.

Mr Dupee said: 'Growth at the dinosaur park has been phenomenal since we took it over in 2006 when there were 140,000 annual visitors - and it looks like there will be no end to it.'

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He said the completion of All dualling would open up new markets and they were already planning a campaign to market Banham Zoo in the Cambridge area.

Major investment was continuing at all three parks with plans for a 'key new attraction' at Dinosaur Adventure soon to be unveiled.

Tom Blofeld, owner of Bewilderwood, the treehouse adventure park near Horning, said they had also enjoyed an exceptional October half-term, capping a year which had brought 160,000 visitors - 20,000 more than their budgeted target.

He said: 'Each day over half-term we had 1,000 more visitors than projected; I don't think I will ever see another Halloween holiday like it.'

Over the winter they would be investing in an indoor play area and upgrading toilets as well as bringing in a further 'cool' piece of play equipment in the form of a mound.

Coastal attractions fared less well in terms of the year overall but Peter Williamson, owner of Merrivale Model Village, on Great Yarmouth seafront, said: 'We had a fantastic October half-term - the best for a number of years.'

Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, said: 'Tourism is on a circle of success at the moment, aided by the great weather we've had here in the UK's combined sunniest-driest county. This has encouraged more visitors, spending more money, and that's encouraged businesses to invest more in their facilities.

'We should remember that it's already Norfolk's biggest industry sector, at £2.8 billion a year, but more expenditure on the tourism product means we can help drive the year-round visitor economy and increase day trips to stay trips.'

Full details of Larking Gowen's tourism survey - which mirrored the NTAA's findings concerning visitor numbers and confidence - will be published on November 14 on'