How Norfolk’s tourism industry can capitalise on the success of the London 2012 Olympics.
The start of Danny Boyle's Olympic opening ceremony played out scenes from traditional Great British rural life – there were rolling green pastures, cottages and cricket.
That image is a powerful one internationally because it is what people expect the 'real England' to be like. The equivalent for Australia would be kangaroos bouncing across the outback and for France, a rustic farmhouse house nestling in a Bordeaux vineyard.
This idyll is especially important one for Norfolk because we have it by the barrel-load – and all just a short journey from London.
But having the idyll is only half the answer when we are trying to 'turbo charge' our county's tourism industry in the wake of the Olympics. The other half is getting people to come – and that is what culture secretary Jeremy Hunt sought to address in his speech yesterday.
Speaking from the Tate Modern in London he said: 'The Olympics should be for Britain what Usain Bolt is for athletics; something that grabs the attention of the whole world and refuses to let it go.
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'We must use this extraordinary year to turbo-charge our tourism industry; to create jobs and prosperity on the back of a globally-enhanced reputation.'
To that end Mr Hunt made several announcements including �8m to expand the 'GREAT' marketing campaign.
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Up to now it has seen posters, advertising and publicity stunts carried out in key cities across the globe.
These have included driving a double-decker bus through Tokyo, draping Delhi taxis in red, white and blue, projecting huge images on the Aurora building in Shanghai and, rather cheekily, having a poster outside Paris's Louvre informing customers paying exorbitant prices that there is free entry at the British Museum.
A new drive will focus on China; from where only 150,000 tourists visited Britain last year – way down on France which attracts between 25pc and 50pc more people from the country. Yet by 2025, Shanghai is expected to be the third richest city in the world, with five other major Chinese cities likely to be among the top 20 for GDP growth.
By 2030, China should have around 1.4 billion middle class consumers, making it a potential tourism market four times bigger than the US.
In his speech Mr Hunt set out a target to more than treble the number of Chinese visitors attracted to the UK to 500,000 by 2015, something he claimed would generate �500m additional visitor spend a year and create 14,000 new jobs.
Overall he said he wanted the tourist industry to embrace his target to increase the number of international visitors to the UK from the current 30 million to 40 million by 2020.
But the perennial question for the tourism industry outside London is whether these people will venture beyond the capital once they get here.
Speaking in the EDP yesterday Keith Brown, chief executive of regional tourism body Visit East Anglia, called on the government to boost its investment to attract foreign visitors.
Today he welcomed the news from London saying: 'We certainly couldn't afford to do any international marketing – there simply are not the resources publicly or privately to do that. So we need the larger organisation at the top to go abroad and promote Britain and bring visitors here, to tell them the reasons to come here – the cultural aspects, the history and the heritage, all of which people can then get from coming to Norfolk when they are here.'
Mr Brown explained that while Visit East Anglia relied on the government to market the UK effectively abroad, it was up to regional bodies like his to compete for those visitors once they were here. If the government's announcements yesterday could deliver a greater pool of visitors to draw from, then the potential benefits to the region are greater as long as the tourism industry, worth �2.6bn in Norfolk, plays its part.
Mr Brown said: 'The strength of our tourism offer is that we are very close to London and we have good connections with the major gateways.Stansted Airport serves about 150 destinations and brings the people coming from those countries into close proximity to us.
'From a day visit point of view, people who come from other countries into London and the South East can get to us very quickly and what we have for international visitors is what they expect to see – the real England, all within easy reach of London.'
So a key part of the body's efforts is to push advertising in those gateways, like Stansted and Liverpool Street train station in London, and to ensure literature and posters promoting Norfolk and East Anglia enjoy prominent positions at tourist centres in the capital.
The visitor centre at St Paul's Cathedral, for example, has information on the two-for-one offer that Visit East Anglia launched with rail company Greater Anglia, which gives tourists deals at attractions in the region.
Mr Hunt also announced �2m for a campaign to persuade UK residents to holiday at home. Meanwhile Visit England pledged to double the number of domestic package breaks by improving co-ordination between website retailers, car rental groups, train companies, airlines and hotels.
The secretary of state said: 'No longer will domestic tourism be the poor relation when it comes to big marketing campaigns for the domestic tourism pound. And rightly so – because to suggest we need to choose between either a strong domestic offer or a strong international offer is a false dichotomy. The bigger the domestic market, the more investment we will stimulate in quality accommodation and attractions and the more international visitors we will attract.'
Whether the Olympic feel-good factor does lead to better tourism for the east is something only time and visitor numbers will tell.
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See tomorrow's EDP for the launch of our tourism awards.