Visit Norfolk faces uncertain future due to funding cut
- Credit: Matthew Usher
A tourism group tasked with promoting Norfolk is set to lose a significant chunk of its funding - but hopes money from the private sector will keep it going.
Visit Norfolk manager Pete Waters said a three-year contract which had seen the destination management organisation (DMO) receive funding from Norfolk County Council and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) towards its core costs would come to an end in March 2018.
He said: 'Tourism is not a statutory obligation for the public sector so we appreciate their support. There is pressure on local authorities all the time and they are cash strapped.'
He said in the first year, Visit Norfolk had received £64,000, which was split 50-50 between the two towards core costs.
'This decreased to £48,000 in the second year and £32,000 in the third year,' Mr Waters said. 'The contract ends next spring, at which point Visit Norfolk has no money for core costs.'
Mr Waters said the main costs were a manager's salary, website hosting, design and content and market intelligence costs.
Visit Norfolk also receives around £55,000 per year from a range of organisations, which it uses towards marketing.
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'We've had time to prepare and are pretty much self sustaining now. As long as the private sector supports us, we won't close,' he said.
Asked if he believed the private sector would support the organisation, he replied: 'They will if they think they are getting value for money and Visit Norfolk is helping grow the visitor economy of this county.
'As the visitor economy has grown from £2.7bn to nearly £3.2bn in the last five years, I would say that Visit Norfolk has had a significant role to play in developing it thanks to the marketing activity we've been able to do for the county.'
He said the organisation was seen as being part of an important marketing mix with individual attractions and other destination management organisations, such as Visit Norwich and Visit North Norfolk.
'There is a huge amount of overlapping and the sum of the parts is bigger than the individual components,' Mr Waters said. 'We can offer a stronger marketing voice if we work together.
'My message to local tourism businesses is that if you want Visit Norfolk to continue its work, then you need to support us.'
Businesses back Visit Norfolk
A number of businesses rallied to support Visit Norfolk, saying tourism would suffer if it closed or its role was diminished.
Kate Morfoot of Jungle PR and founder of www.LoveToEatToTravel.com said: 'On a business level, Norfolk would suffer the lack of PR promoting the county as a place for short breaks and holidays having an economic consequence on our tourism industry as a whole.'
Simon Altham from Hoseasons said: 'Anything that harms the collaborative promotion of Norfolk as a world-class tourist destination would clearly be of concern. Visit Norfolk is a key player when it comes to flying the flag for our county and tourism businesses across the sector will be anxious to avoid weakening our collective position when it comes to attracting more visitors and boosting the local economy.'
Benjie Cabbell Manners from Amazona Zoo: 'I am sure other local tourist and leisure attractions, hotels and so on will agree that any cuts or possible closure would have a negative impact on the promotion of Norfolk.'
Old Brick Kilns Caravan Park: 'Visit Norfolk performs consistently in the top five of websites that direct traffic to our business every year. Also, we often share their online news and features with our guests as they are current and informative for visitors to the area. Their pages are very well presented which is why it works so well.'
Norfolk Country Cottages: 'We have a long standing relationship with Visit Norfolk. Their challenge is to become a commercially sustainable model and we fully support them in this pursuit. We believe that Norfolk does require an organisation to promote the county to help increase visitor numbers and this can't purely be left to the private sector.'
Nicola Hems, curator Museum of the Broads: 'Visit Norfolk is a great introduction to anyone visiting our beautiful county. It's also useful for those of us who already live here. We are keen to see Visit Norfolk continuing. It covers all aspects of the Broads and as a key Broads business we are delighted to be part of it.'
Ruth Knight, Waveney River Centre: 'Norfolk as a holiday destination cannot be marketed with just one message as there is such a variety of destinations for visitors to explore. Visit Norfolk are doing a great job at promoting and achieving a balance with all that Norfolk has to offer.'