Norfolk and Suffolk tourism bosses target thousands of new visitors from London and Essex

Tourism officials hope to persuade thousands of new visitors to explore Norfolk and the rest of the eastern region with an advertising campaign targeting 500,000 London and Essex households.

Visit East Anglia has joined forces with train operator Greater Anglia for what is thought to be the first-ever large scale attempt to persuade people to leave the capital with two-for-one ticket deals.

The campaign contrasts to the traditional offer of encouraging visitors to flock into London by rail and will be backed by a television advertisement.

This will be aired in the capital during the summer, with Visit East Anglia hailing it as the first advertisement of its kind for the region.

More than 70 tourism businesses have signed-up to the campaign, including Broads Tours, the Bure Valley Railway, Norwich Castle and Wroxham Barns.

They will feature in leaflets promoting the offers online and at Greater Anglia stations, while postcards will also drop through the letterboxes of residents in London and Essex.

The campaign is aiming to encourage more people to choose Norfolk, which currently earns about �2.6bn a year from tourism, as their destination for day trips and short breaks.

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It is also hoped the county will benefit from its royal connections, such as Sandringham, during the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, and the UK's extra exposure during the London 2012 Olympics.

Richard Ellis, chairman of Visit East Anglia, said: 'I think it's a very positive move and it's probably simply the scale of it which is so exciting.

'I think what we are seeing is a different level of commitment in the rail operator in terms of engaging in tourism.'

Greater Anglia, a branch of Dutch firm Abellio, says it is investing �130,000 in the two-for-one deal. The company took control of running services in East Anglia in February and was given a 29-month contract.

But the firm is looking to secure a longer 15-year franchise, which the Department for Transport is predicted to make a decision on in July 2014.

The latest punctuality figures released by Greater Anglia revealed 91.8pc of its trains arrived on time in March compared to the 92pc for the previous operator in March 2011.

Line problems aside, which are largely out of the company's control, Ruud Haket, Greater Anglia managing director, said: 'We want to make a real difference to the region we serve and to do all we can in partnership with Visit East Anglia to promote East Anglia as the tourist destination of choice for Londoners looking for a great day out by train or a relaxing short break.' Chris Scargill, tourism and leisure partner at Larking Gowen, chartered accountants and business advisors, said there was a big market of potential visitors who live within 90 minutes of Norfolk.

He said it was important to win over people who choose to visit the region, which could lead to repeat visits.

Mr Scargill said: 'It's been a difficult period, particularly with the wet weather of late. As it has been forecast so far ahead it has meant people have made the decision to stay at home or travel less, so this big push will come as a great piece of respite from a bit of doom and gloom.'

London resident Rosemary Davenport, 26, said she had booked a week off work during the Olympics.

She said: 'I think train deals like this will definitely encourage Londoners to explore areas like Norfolk that perhaps they've not considered visiting before.'

Ann Steward, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for development, added: 'Norfolk being only 90 minutes from London, it's a great place to place to come and work, rest and play.'