Here comes the sun: Norfolk tourism businesses hope for boost from sunny bank holiday
- Credit: Nick Butcher
For many of us, bad weather is a minor annoyance – but for tourism businesses too much of it can mean the difference between managing or foundering.
This year has so far presented an uphill struggle for the leisure industry, with prolonged wintry spells in February and March and a wash-out Easter weekend – the first big holiday of the year and an important one for the sector.
But with a balmy and sunny Bank Holiday weekend expected – with the mercury expected to rise to 20C on Saturday and 21C on Sunday – attractions and accommodation providers around the county are eager to make up for lost time.
Martin Dupee, director of operations at Banham Zoo and Africa Alive and chair of Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions, said the 'perfect' weather forecasts should encourage people to explore the county's offering.
'Following a slow start to this season due to a poor Easter, I am really confident that this May Bank Holiday is going to be extremely positive for attractions right across the region,' he said.
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Amanda Woods, marketing manager at boat hire firm Herbert Woods in Potter Heigham, said a 'turnaround' was in progress from a slow February and March, with only nine of its 124 boats not yet booked out for the Bank Holiday weekend.
'Everyone is desperate for a bit of sunshine and wanting to get out,' she said.
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Timothy Hay, managing director at the Beeston Group, which owns eight holiday parks in the region including at Beeston Regis and Mundesley, said while bookings had been good so far this year the weather had dampened visitors' spirits. But he said customers are 'responding well' to the improved conditions with strong bookings.
'Norfolk was the second busiest tourism county in Britain last year with over £3bn spent, and I see this continuing,' he said.
Coastal towns this weekend could see the benefit of people's desire to flock to the seaside on a sunny day. Deputy mayor of Hunstanton, Amanda Bosworth, said: 'I think people do overlook [the town] but they get here and realise how wonderful it is to get that sea air, it's a real experience.'
At Potters Resort in Hopton-on-Sea, which has invested £75m in weather-proof indoor sports and leisure facilities, the 600-strong team are hoping for some sunshine after the ravages of the Beast from the East – during which the resort remained fully functional.
Managing director John Potter said the resort's 98th year in business was already proving to be a record-breaking one.
Gary Dickenson, president of the Cromer Chamber of Trade, was also confident of a good weekend in the north Norfolk town.
He is heavily involved with the Cromer365 campaign, which aims to see visitors in the town all year round.
'Cromer's so special because where else can you enjoy a walk in the beautiful hinterland in the morning, choose from a vast range of independent eateries for lunch all serving locally caught Cromer crab, relax on the beach with an ice cream in the afternoon and then have fish and chips on the pier in the evening?' he said.
The wet weather has also been delaying spring for the county's garden centres.
But Richard Greenacre, centre manager at Notcutts Norwich, said the unseasonable cold had not held back customer numbers at the garden centre or its restaurant.
He said: 'Whilst some spring plants had to be held back due to the adverse weather, Notcutts Norwich is fully stocked and the forecast sunshine provides the perfect opportunity to get out in the garden and prepare it for the summer months.'
'We are hoping for a bumper weekend'
Bring on the bank holiday weekend and three days of great weather.
That was the message of beach-side businesses in Great Yarmouth yesterday as the town's Golden Mile geared up for the weekend of family fun.
Jack Button, who runs Jack's Jetty Snacks, said: 'I think it is going to be a great bank holiday with three glorious days of weather.
'People have been looking at the weather forecasts and will be planning to come to Great Yarmouth.'
Dusty Miller, who rents out desk chairs, said that the Golden Mile was the perfect place for families seeking fun in the sun.
He said: 'It is a beautiful beach and there are lots of nice cafeterias. I am sure the weekend will bring decent weather and lots of people.'
Donna Ellis, from the Beach House Cafe, said: 'We are hoping for a bumper weekend because there is going to be wonderful weather.
'It is the best beach in the country.'
What's on this Bank Holiday weekend?
– On Saturday the fifth Horning Boat Show will moor up for the day, with more than 100 exhibitors from luxury cruisers to marine services. BeWilderwood's Tom Blofeld will open the show, which will also feature fashion shows and classic cars.
– The 19th annual Wighton Scarecrow Festival runs all weekend, with a children's scarecrow competition and a tractor rally.
– Head to Bressingham Steam Museum for the Heritage Steam Gala, also running Saturday to Monday, where there will be more than 20 engines in steam each day.
– Hunstanton's annual orchard blossom day is taking place today, with children's entertainment, a dog show, live music and trade stands.
– On Sunday the grounds of Earsham Hall will be taken over by Bungay Lions Classic Vehicle Rally and Country Fayre, which last year saw 400 cars, commercial vehicles and motorcycles on display.
– The spring Tour De Broads will set off from Great Yarmouth's Sealife Centre on Sunday, with cyclists touring up to 100 miles through the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads.