Half-term kicks off buoyant tourism year for Norfolk

Optimistic: Antonia and Stephen Bournes with Jenna Richard (centre) at the Globe Inn Wells next the

Optimistic: Antonia and Stephen Bournes with Jenna Richard (centre) at the Globe Inn Wells next the Sea - Credit: Archant

Norfolk's tourism operators are predicting a bumper year with strong bookings for both this half-term and the months ahead.

And as the county prepares to welcome its first big influx of visitors along the newly-dualled A11 this week, Hoseasons boss Simon Altham issued a rallying cry to businesses to 'give people a good experience and make the most of the opportunity'.

Mr Altham said bookings for their lodges and cottages were 9pc up on last year and there was very strong demand for luxury four and five star properties reflecting the improved economic climate.

Meanwhile, Hoseasons' bookings over the past four weeks for the coming Norfolk Broads boating holidays season were 11pc up on the same time last year.

Stalham-based Richardson's, the Broads' biggest holiday boat operator, reported an even bigger surge in early year bookings.

CEO Greg Munford said: 'As at the end of January, we were 30pc up on our best ever year. We have seen great response from our TV campaign with our analytics showing large spikes when the ad was aired and our call volumes up in the transmission areas.'

Heather McCraith, manager at Norfolk Country Cottages Norfolk Country Cottages, which lets more than 450 properties, said they had also seen a strong start to the booking year with a big demand for the summer months.

She added: 'The early part of the season is also booking well with customers holidaying in February up 10pc on last year and Easter already showing an increase in demand on 2014. With 70pc of our portfolio graded at VisitEngland 4 star and above we have certainly noticed an upward trend for quality.'

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Stephen Bournes, managing-director of The Globe Inn, at Wells, said bookings were 'rolling in well' for the year ahead and there was a strong sense of optimism, building on a buoyant 2014.

He said: 'We experienced a really good summer in 2014, the bedrooms were up 10pc and so was food and drink overall.

'We found that the season continued strong until mid-November with both food and accommodation. All looks good for the season, we are doing a major expansion to our restaurant having refurbished the bedrooms and the main hotel last year.'

The UK's leading holiday park operator, Park Resorts, which has two centres near Great Yarmouth and one near Lowestoft, is also predicting a bumper year for staycations with January bookings for 2015 holidays up 21pc compared to January 2014.

Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, said: 'People I have spoken to agree the year is looking good with bookings very strong.

'Research we commissioned last year found that Norfolk should focus on its unique offerings and that is what Visit Norfolk is doing, promoting the Broads as the only national park with a city in it and telling everyone about our Deep History Coast.'

He said they had just staged a press trip with national journalists showing the attractions of the 16 mile stretch from West Runton, where a mammoth was discovered, to Happisburgh where footprints that were the earliest evidence of man outside the African Rift Valley were found.

Is your tourism business thriving? Email stephen.pullinger@archant.co.uk