Norfolk and Suffolk can improve the way it markets itself according to new report
- Credit: James Bass
'There is room for improvement' in the way Norfolk and Suffolk are marketed to the world, industry leaders have said as a new report claims tourism could create more than 600,000 jobs in Britain over the next decade.
The study – commissioned by the government's tourism quango VisitBritain – claims the value of tourism to the UK economy could double by the middle of the next decade.
Tourism bosses claim the region has 'great untapped potential' within the UK, but with the report suggesting a driving force of the growth will be inbound visitors, bodies like VisitBritain – which promote England and Great Britain around the world – must do more to represent our interests abroad.
Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia, said: 'We still believe that Norfolk and Suffolk have great untapped potential in as far as the brand awareness of Norfolk and Suffolk is not as high as it could be given the quality of our product and the variety of experiences we have.
'There is a big opportunity, if we can raise the profile of the brand, that further growth is possible. In particular growth in all year around tourism.'
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He added: 'Bodies like VisitBritain and VisitEngland have been set up by the government to promote the country or in Visit Britain's case the countries as a whole. What we need to do is ensure that Visit Britain is representing the interests of Norfolk and Suffolk internationally.
'There is room for improvement.'
Visit Norfolk brand manager Peter Waters agreed that a lot more worldwide marketing was needed.
He said there were huge attractions for the US market with the region's royal connections and with many US troops based here during the second world war.
And attractions like Sandringham and Newmarket races and the English whiskey industry would draw the Chinese market.
According to the report – which was written by consulting giant Deloitte – the tourism economy is poised to grow by 3.8pc a year.
Figures show that the proportion of tourism jobs in Norfolk and Suffolk was among the highest in the country, with 8pc of all jobs in Great Yarmouth, North Norfolk and Forest Heath related to tourism – more than double the national average in the 2012. But New Anglia suggest it is more like 10.5pc across Norfolk and Suffolk in 2010, according to their research.
The Deloitte report also suggested that Norfolk and Suffolk tourism industry had been hit harder by the recession than other parts of the country, with the number of tourism jobs falling across the region between 2010 and 2012.
All districts in Norfolk and Suffolk apart from south Norfolk and Forest Heath experienced a decline in tourism jobs over the period of more than 5pc, the report claimed.
But Mr Starkie and Visit Norfolk and Visit Norwich disputed this with their own figures and anecdotal evidence suggesting the opposite.
Mr Starkie said: 'We would expect to see a significant increase in tourism employment. We wouldn't expect to see the decline that VisitBritain seem to be indicating. Their research seems to be flawed.'
Mr Waters said Norfolk's tourism industry needed to collaborate for the greater benefit of all.
'If we all sing with one voice we will be able to shout louder,' he said.
He added that the big opportunity for Norfolk was as a 'year around' destination and attractions such as the Masterpieces at the Sainsbury Centre, the seals at Blakeney and bird watching in places like Welney were all happening at this time of year.
'People can come here and have a fantastic short break. We need a year round tourism economy. The infrastructure is there.'
VisitBritain chairman Christopher Rodrigues said: 'Tourism has become a bedrock of the UK economy – generating a third of the UK's net new jobs between 2010 and 2012 – and still has the ability to grow at levels that will lead other industries out of the economic slowdown.
'Inbound tourism is already one of Britain's top export industries and will continue to be the fastest-growing sector of the industry.'
He went on: 'Inbound tourism's record performance since the Olympics bodes well for the future but to achieve the industry's full potential we need to continue to raise our game, marry policy and marketing and promote Britain even more aggressively overseas.'