Norfolk is: Kiss me quick and enjoy everything Great Yarmouth has to offer
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2012
For generations, millions of tourists have been bringing their families and hard-earned cash to Great Yarmouth.
Photograph albums all over the country are brimming with happy family snaps of children on donkeys, riding the snails or posing at the Waterways.
And more memories are being made every day as the resort's popularity continues to boom, helped by regeneration, economic uncertainty and the weak pound.
Latest figures reveal the town is more dependent than ever on tourism as the sector continues to grow – accounting for 29.3pc of all employment.
Its total value was said to be worth £531m in 2011 compared to £394m in 2003 – with more people coming and, crucially, spending more money. Many of them are 'switchers' who have turned their backs on foreign holidays.
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Kirsty Burn, promotions manager at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said a third of all tourists who came on holiday to Norfolk, and a quarter of those who visited Norfolk and Suffolk, stayed in the Yarmouth area – which has more bed spaces than anywhere else and is justifiably Norfolk's premier resort.
With 3.9 million people coming on day trips and 1.1 million staying over, holiday attractions all over the county benefit, as they explore.
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Of those who stay a week it is estimated they spend three or four days in the Yarmouth area, and will also visit Norwich, The Broads and North Norfolk taking their wallets with them. If Yarmouth is busy, everybody benefits.
Brimming with enthusiasm Ms Burn said: 'We are big, and we are growing. Businesses all across Norfolk depend on tourists who stay in Yarmouth and Hemsby and the holiday camps out towards Burgh Castle and Belton – they are very important to us. The recession has worked quite well for us. People have reviewed where they are going to go on holiday. Also the Olympics have had an interesting effect with the whole 'Britain is beautiful' message. And of course the weather over the last five weeks has made a real difference with bookings up 15pc, which is impressive.
'People are feeling pretty positive overall about holidaying in this country.
'In Norfolk we are very lucky because we have a reputation for dry and sunny weather. It has been fantastic to see how busy the seafront has been. It has been heaving.
'One of the best things we have is 15 miles of what I call dry beaches where it doesn't matter if the tide is in or out because there is still plenty of beach to build sandcastles.
We have that pretty much from Gorleston to Winterton and that is a real plus for Great Yarmouth. They are all beautiful, really clean and lovely beaches.
'Also we have a really interesting heritage offer. We are lucky to have both an English Heritage and National Trust property and they bring in a huge crowd which often find all our other museums...
'We are a tradtional yet modern seaside resort.'
Sue Dodds, who runs Seashells dog friendly guest house in Nelson Road North, said all seven of her rooms were full throughout August – making up for a cold economic start over the winter.
Visitors were mainly returners and people who had found her through bookings websites, with few knocking on the door any more. Most said the beach was the main draw, many commenting on how clean it was, she said, with busy Regent Road and its array of shops a close second.
'It really has been all about the beach this year,' she said. 'That is what people seem to like the most.'
Aside from the jingling arcades and fast food emporiums of the Golden Mile, the town is keen to promote its quieter historic side, with some of its best attractions nestling near the stony embrace of the old town wall –one of Britain's most complete with two thirds still standing and boasting an impressive ring of towers.
Potter and painter Ernie Childs has been working from his Smokehouse and Potteries for 35 years. For much of that, he has been spinning his local tales and yarns on walks around the town he is proud to call home.
In the old days, he said, you could sell a lump of concrete with Yarmouth stamped on it. But today's visitor is more discerning.
He said: 'I go to other towns and they have got nothing like we have. There is so much going for it.
'There is our Golden Mile with new people investing and lovely flower beds and baskets. Regent Road looks absolutely lovely.
' The season starts slow and everyone waits for the school holidays. After they go back you get a different type of visitor. People still come in the winter to the museums and to look at the old wall.
'But our main asset is the beach, lovely restaurants and plenty of shopping. You will never go hungry in Yarmouth. We are surrounded by the Broads and the river with its lovely old boats.
'When I deliver my pottery to other places, I have a quick look round and they don't have anything like we have. I have spent my life walking people round this town so I have got to feel proud of it. I like the personal touch and to chat with people.
'Autumn is our best time with Christmas being our very best. But it generally works out roughly the same.'
James Steward, eastern area manager for Norfolk Museums, which manages the Elizabethan House, Time and Tide and Tolhouse Museums, said: 'Seaside towns are at the heart of our national identity and, to many, it is their historical character that makes them so enjoyable to visit.
'If Great Yarmouth is serious about developing tourism, it will need to rise to the challenge of diversifying its image and develop its appeal to different audiences.
'This includes doing more to promote our culture and unique heritage.'
Meanwhile, farmer Richard Hirst at Hemsby was celebrating his best day in seven years at his Megamaze attraction. Feedback from visitors had been 'fantastic' he said, with people saying it was good value for money and there was plenty to do. The first year, he said, was the worst mainly because of the challenge of setting up an attraction which involved growing a crop.
This year, however, he was very pleased with how things were going, with plenty of people about, the busiest days seeing more than 500 people lost in the labyrinth and enjoying themselves.
• TOP 14
Great Yarmouth Racecourse – its 'straight mile' attracts top jockeys
Hippodrome Circus – celebrating its 110th anniversary. The water spectacle has to be seen to be believed.
Thrigby Wildlife Gardens – everything from big tigers to sugar gliders
Smokehouse and Potteries – made from ships timbers nestled in the 900-year-old town wall
Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach – thrilling families for generations
Merrivale Model Village – a whole world in minature
Gorleston beach – a beautiful sandy sweep and shallow surf
The iconic snails at Joyland – just to say you've done it!
Horsey Windpump – wonderful views from this breezy lookout
Roman Fort at Burgh Castle – atmospheric remains
Lydia Eva – the world's last remaining steam drifter bobs at South Quay
Time and Tide – all you wanted to know about Yarmouth and more
Hemsby maize maze – Lots of fun with added attractions. Top tip: pay the extra £1 for the map!
Great Yarmouth Stadium – smashing cars, sprinting greyhounds and flashing fireworks.
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