Photo gallery: Shout about Norfolk from the rooftops, tourism industry told

Visit Norfolk end of season conference. From left: Peter Waters, Andy Wood, Andrew Hird and Matthew Jones. Photo: Bill Smith

Visit Norfolk end of season conference. From left: Peter Waters, Andy Wood, Andrew Hird and Matthew Jones. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Norfolk's tourism industry has been urged to shout louder about what it has to offer to compete better with Cornwall and other UK destinations.

Visit Norfolk end of season conference. Photo: Bill Smith

Visit Norfolk end of season conference. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Archant © 2013

Simon Altham, managing director of Hoseasons, made the rallying cry yesterday in response to a survey which starkly shows that, despite its diverse attractions and healthy £2.78bn annual tourism economy, Norfolk is still well down the list when the British public is thinking about a holiday at home.

The influential YouGov poll, commissioned by the Lowestoft-based holidays firm, surveyed a national audience of adults last week and found Norfolk to be only fifth in a national league table of favourite destinations behind Cornwall, the Scottish Highlands, Devon and Yorkshire.

The county was ranked fourth among those associated with great local food, behind first-placed Cornwall, but did not even make the top five for counties most famous for beaches (again topped by Cornwall), scoring a measly 2pc – the same as Lancashire.

Norfolk also missed out on a top-five placing for counties regarded as most famous for its historic buildings, while Norwich only squeezed into fifth place in a league table of small cities thought best for shopping, behind top-placed York,

Mr Altham said the survey – 'a healthy litmus test' – showed that awareness of Norfolk across the UK was 'not as great as we hoped'.

When the survey was restricted to people living in the East, Norfolk fared better but it still lagged behind Cornwall for its beaches, food and as an overall favourite destination.

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In a message echoed by other speakers at Visit Norfolk's first autumn tourism conference at the John Innes Conference Centre, Norwich, Mr Altham said: 'Norfolk is great, but there is always room for improvement.'

He added that the path for improvement was more investment in people, training, infrastructure and national advertising.

And he warned that in an age when people tended to book late and search for the best value, it was essential to price products competitively.

He said customers now demanded 'at least as good if not better than home' and even if accommodation providers did not have the money for large-scale investment a 'loved and cared-for' impression could be created by even small touches such as new soft furnishings and crockery.

He added: 'Investment in new technology is important. Children need to stay connected to have a good holiday and, going forward, WiFi should be considered the norm and not a nice-to-have.'

Mr Altham said that to build on what had been a good season, boosted by the weather, Norfolk's tourism leaders should be happy to share ideas. 'It is easy to see each other as competitors but we should all be working together to make Norfolk reach its full potential,' he added.

Endorsing the findings of the survey, Visit Norfolk brand manager Peter Waters said: 'Norfolk has the best overall tourism offering in the country, but we can do a lot better to make ourselves more 'top of mind' as a UK destination.'

He felt that Norfolk tourism needed to work together as an industry to promote the overall offering rather than being fragmented with different parts doing their own thing in isolation.

Mr Waters told the conference how Visit Norfolk was working to create a more effective tourism partnership and, spearheading its latest work, was a new autumn advertising campaign launched to coincide with the conference.

The campaign, promoting the idea that 'There's nowhere like Norfolk', has been targeted on the on-demand TV platform ITV Player.

Mr Waters said: 'As far as we know, it is the first time Norfolk has advertised itself on national television.'

A poster campaign at London stations would reinforce the message that Norfolk was a destination for all seasons. Other speakers at the conference included Tom Blofeld, creator of the Bewilderwood treehouse adventure park in Horning, and Malcolm Bell, of Visit Cornwall.