Norfolk tourism businesses prepare for bumper holiday season
- Credit: JAMES BASS PHOTOGRAPHY
Tourism businesses across Norfolk are preparing for a bumper 2018 holiday season as more than a third of British people look to holiday locally this year.
Figures from VisitBritain show that between January and September 2017, Brits took 7.5m overnight trips to the East of England, spending £1.4bn.
Visitor numbers are expected to increase this year, as more people opt for staycations amid continued uncertainty around Brexit and the value of the pound.
VisitBritain director Patricia Yates said: 'Tourism is one of our most valuable export industries and we are forecasting that growth will continue in 2018.'
She said Norfolk had a 'huge amount' to offer as a holiday destination for both international and domestic visitors.
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'From taking a boat along the Broads to walking the Coastal Path, or from visiting Sandringham Estate's gardens and museum to enjoying a dram at the home of English Whisky, St George's Distillery, there's something for all ages,' she added.
Broads tourism chairman Greg Munford said 2017 had been a 'fantastic year' for tourism - and members expected the same for 2018.
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'Many accommodation providers and boat hire businesses across the region are indicating that advanced bookings for 2018 are already looking better than they were this time last year,' he said.
'This is encouraging news, not just for the accommodation providers but for all of the local businesses that rely on visitors to the area.'
Mr Munford said with the uncertainty of Brexit and lower value of the pound, it is expected that a third of British people will look to take a local holiday this year.
'We believe that the fantastic work of Broads Tourism in partnership with the Broads Authority promoting the Broads National Park, which has resulted in a nomination for the BBC Countryfile Magazine National Park of the Year award, will result in increased visitors to the area.'
One of the country's largest holiday letting agencies, Norfolk Country Cottages, said all indications pointed to Norfolk enjoying a bumper year for tourism.
The company said the way in which Norfolk staycationers were booking holidays was changing, as bookings were being made earlier.
Brand manager Lucy Downing said: 'Last year, our peak booking days were Tuesday, January 3 and Monday, January 9.
'This year, we have already experienced our peak booking days, Friday, January 5 and Saturday, January 6 respectively.'
She said people could be booking earlier due to declining consumer confidence, a recent increase in mortgage rates, increased competition in the holiday lettings market, security fears and more people opting for a staycation rather than venturing abroad.
A rise in the short break market also meant that holiday lettings agencies were experiencing two major bookings periods during the course of a year.
'That January is peak booking season in the travel industry is well documented,' she said. 'However, booking patterns and customer behaviour are changing, with holiday lettings agencies enjoying a 'second bite of the cherry' later in the year.'
She said people were booking short breaks much closer to the school holidays and booking their next summer holiday almost immediately after returning home in August or early September.
'Our figures show that people booking their week-long summer holiday 130 days before departure, whilst short breaks are booked just over 50 days beforehand.'
The North Norfolk coast remained the most popular choice for holidaymakers, with bookings for Sheringham up by over 70pc compared to previous years and Cromer, which was still the most popular, by 76pc.
Visit Norfolk manager Pete Waters said he expected 'continued growth' in the visitor economy this year.
'More people are finding us and liking us so much that they're coming back,' he said.
'We are also seeing more investment in product that is making us more attractive.'
Benjie Cabbell Manners of Amazona Zoo said they were celebrating their 10th anniversary in June 2018, adding: 'Year-on-year we are receiving increased visitor numbers.
'Cromer is a significant tourist hot-spot and with the diversity of the seaside town together with our South American animals, we are expecting another buoyant year.'
£10m 'Super Park' set for Easter opening
Tourism property owners who have invested in their accommodation and facilities in recent years are the ones seeing the greatest returns.
One of the biggest developments to launch this year will be the £10m 'Super Park' at Hemsby.
Richardson's chief executive Greg Munford said they had been working hard over the winter period to get the park ready in time for the start of the holiday season.
He said: 'The project is currently on schedule for the park's Easter holidays opening on March 30, with the first of the brand new gold caravans already being sited and major structural works running to schedule.
'Also new for 2018 are our brand new Omar platinum lodges and hot tubs due for delivery in the first week in February.'
He said staff members would soon be sent for training with Hoseasons to deliver activities such as archery, body zorbing, fencing, snorkeling and more.
Norfolk popular for holiday homes
New research has revealed that Norfolk along with Cornwall and Cumbria are the top places to own a holiday home.
With many of the owners living in big cities, the research by Schofields Ltd shows that people are buying second homes mainly to have a weekend getaway destination.
Based on data provided from nearly 1,000 holiday home owners throughout the UK, Schofields found that on average they lived 121 miles away from the property.
The company's Phil Schofield said holiday home owners felt they contributed to the local economy in a variety of ways.
'Many holiday home owners argue that they spend a lot of money on the upkeep of the property, hiring local builders, gardeners and cleaners especially if they let out their properties.
'Property owners don't want their houses sitting empty in the off peak season so also invest a lot of money to attract visitors all year round.'