Your county needs you! Rallying call for people to support Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire’s tourism industry
- Credit: Evening News Â© 2008
They've suffered several summers of poor weather and a freezing start to 2013 but a brighter future lies ahead for the region's tourism industry - with EDP readers today urged to do their bit to make it so.
With Easter, a key period for the sector, under way, the EDP is reinforcing its long-running Holiday Here campaign and urging people to get out and about and show their support for tourism businesses.
Tourism employs more than 50,000 people directly in the region and tens of thousands indirectly and is worth more than £2.6bn to the economy.
Therefore it means so much to the region's future prospects to ensure it stays vibrant.
And if every family committed to spending an extra day or two, or maybe even a full holiday, to staying in the region or visiting one of it's many attractions, that could make such a difference to the industry.
EDP editor Nigel Pickover said today: 'Tourism is vital to our region, in Norfolk alone supporting 51,000 people and contributing £2.6bn to the local economy - that is why we are glad to stage the EDP Tourism Awards each year.
'After the trials of the weather last summer and the cold start to this holiday season, there has never been a more important time to back local tourism businesses. And it is a great way to discover the treasures on your own doorstep.
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'If every family committed themselves to just one extra day outing or boat trip, it could make all the difference for struggling businesses.
'I am spending my first holiday of the year as a first timer on the Norfolk Broads and will be writing about it to support the tourism industry. I aim to spend money in the brilliant pubs and shops along the way.'
While reporting a mixed picture for early season bookings, local tourism businesses were enthusiastic about the months to come.
Great Yarmouth tourism officer Alan Carr said: 'People are sometimes oblivious to the attractions on their own doorstep. We can't rely on the weather but we have got stacks of things going on indoors and there has been a lot of investment on the seafront over the winter.'
He said online bookings were up on last season 'to a remarkable degree' and there was an air of optimism among hoteliers and guesthouse owners.
Yarmouth Hippodrome Circus owner Peter Jay also declared himself '100pc behind the EDP's call'.
He said: 'I am all for that. We have seen support from Norfolk people grow over the years and it is now a 50-50 split with holidaymakers.
'People don't always appreciate what is on their doorstep and they get a real kick out of it when they discover it.'
Mr Jay said bookings for the 10th year of Danny Adams' and Clive Webb's Easter circus were up on last year.
Poor early season weather has dampened the enthusiasm of holidaymakers for Easter trips on the Broads, but hire boat firms are optimistic things will pick up as temperatures rise.
Greg Munford, chief executive of Richardson's at Stalham, which has the biggest fleet on the Broads, said: 'We are about 20pc down on hire boat bookings for Easter. The weather we have had has put people off.'
However, he said the company's holiday parks in Hemsby and Scratby were fully booked over the bank holiday.
Amanda Walker, marketing manager at Herbert Woods, based in Potter Heigham, said Easter bookings were not as good as last year's heatwave.
She said: 'A lot of people seem to have written Easter off but bookings for April, May and June are already at least 10pc up on last year.'
Sam Lowe, yard manager at Norfolk Broads Direct in Wroxham reported Easter bookings 'a little bit down because of the weather' but said the firm remained optimistic their large investment over the winter would pay off later in the summer.
All three Broads firms backed the idea of encouraging more locals to take to the water.
Ms Walker said: 'We have done an advertising campaign in Chapelfield to encourage more Norwich people to get out on the Broads. A lot of people seem to dismiss it because it is so close but there is a lot to be said for not having to sit in traffic to go on holiday.'
Assessing prospects for Easter, Michael Timewell, chairman of Visit North Norfolk Coast & Countryside, said: 'It feels like it's been a long winter period and the economic outlook is still uncertain. However we know that people do like to get out and about over Easter, the first major holiday weekend of the new year, and I'm sure a fair share will find their way to the north Norfolk coast and countryside.
'There is any number of high quality accommodation units to stay at and attractions to visit in this area, combine those with the fantastic natural and built environment and there is much to enjoy whatever the weather. We're ready for business so let's see what comes.'
Hetti Simpson, owner of Norfolk Hideaways, said: 'Easter is all set to be a great springboard to launch the 2013 season. Bookings are up 11 per cent on Easter 2012, despite the main weekend falling that much earlier this year. 'We have found that we have had a flurry of last minute bookings but that is not too unusual for the Easter holidays. Now all we need is a bit of sunshine.'
Mark Noble, commercial Manager at Pensthorpe Wildlife and Gardens near Fakenham, said: 'Easter traditionally marks the start of the season for most tourist attractions and we are no different as we kick it off with our hugely popular Easter Eggstravaganza. Fingers crossed for some warmer weather and those visitors courageous enough to put a warm jacket on and head out for some fun in the fresh air.'
Andrew Hird, chief executive of Woodland Holiday Park, Trimingham, said: 'Despite challenging economic circumstances Woodland Holiday Park is experiencing very high levels of bookings for the Easter period, indeed we are some 22 per cent ahead in terms of bookings based on the same period last year. Let's hope the weather is not as bad as forecasted.'
Pete Waters, brand manager for Visit Norfolk, said: 'As illustrated in the results of the EDP/Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey, 75pc of those businesses who took part are optimistic about the 2013 season.
'With rising fuel prices and pressure on household budgets, people are waiting later before they book their holidays, and they're staying closer, which works well for Norfolk tourism.'
Do you holiday in the region or visit its attractions? Tell us where, why and how much you love it by writing to Holiday Here Campaign, Eastern Daily Press, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1 RE or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
We'd also like your photos and videos of your favourite Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire locations. Send them to the email above or use the website www.iwitness24.co.uk