Tourism industry chiefs drive to bring more international tourists to Norfolk and Suffolk

Late summer sunshine brings the crowds to Cromer beach with weather forecasters predicting in Norfo

Cromer beach. - Credit: Mark Bullimore

Tourism bosses have set their sights on overseas visitors in a bid to make the industry a year-round affair while boosting the £4.79bn economy. Tourism and Broads correspondent ROSA MCMAHON reports.

It's the region's economic lifeblood, providing thousands of jobs and income in Norfolk and Suffolk every year.

Yet there is a feeling that one market in this core industry has not been fully exploited – overseas visitors.

It is a sector which businesses are now looking to lure into the region using new marketing techniques and off-peak prices.

Visit Norfolk, working with Visit East Anglia, is leading the way by planning a £150,000 New Year tourism campaign to attract Dutch visitors to Norfolk and Suffolk.

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Pete Waters, executive director at Visit East Anglia, said his team wants to capitalise on the direct transport links already in place between this region and Holland to increase Dutch visitor numbers by 5pc, an estimated £2.3m boost.

'What I always say about tourism is we can build all you want, but unless you tell people something is there, then they won't come,' Mr Waters said.

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'It's all very well investing this money into tourism infrastructure but we have to market ourselves.

'That's why it's important we do things like this Dutch marketing campaign. People need to know what we offer.'

The campaign would look to capitalise on the Stena Line ferry from Harwich to the Hook of Holland and Norwich airport to Amsterdam. There are also plans for a 2016 drive to attract American visitors.

Last year 198,507 overseas visitors spent £100.82m in Norfolk – about 3.3pc of the overall £2.97bn visitor economy – and £86.11m went through Suffolk's tills thanks to 210,280 people from around the globe.

There is still a feeling, however, that infrastructure is not strong enough to make the leap and encourage visitors to choose the East rather than hot-spots such as London, Cambridge and Bath.

Chairman of Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association Martin Dupée said: 'It's not as hard to get into Norfolk as it once was, but we have still got a way to go. It's a slow one.

'Having that link with European partners is an opportunity that can bring in the international market.

'I see the [international visitor] numbers coming to Banham Zoo and they are still extremely low, around 1pc.'

Mr Dupée, who is operations director at the Zoological Society of East Anglia which operates Banham Zoo and Africa Alive, said a key solution to the problem was infrastructure, with campaigns such as Norwich in 90 looking to improve train journey times to and from the capital.

Norwich International Airport was also a key partner to work with, he said, to encourage more inbound flights to the city, bringing visitors into the area rather than taking locals on holidays and business trips.

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