Norfolk tourism chiefs hail promising start to season

Attraction managers and accommodation providers hailed a promising start to the tourist season, despite inclement weather conditions over the Easter bank holiday weekend.

Sunshine was in short supply as thousands of visitors descended on Norfolk and Suffolk for an Easter getaway break. However, it was the indoor tourist destinations that were the big winners during the overcast and rain-hit long weekend.

Accommodation providers reported a busy period with lots of last minute bookings for the beginning of the 2012 tourist season.

Ian Russell, director of Visit East Anglia and director of Wroxham Barns, said Easter was a 'crucial' time for the industry and Norfolk was looking forward to benefiting from a tourism boost as a result of the forthcoming Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the Olympics. He added that it was a good time for the UK stay at home market.

'I think our colleagues on the coast may not be having such a great time, but the visitors are here, no question, and they have got bookings on boats and holiday parks and they are coming out and doing stuff.'

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'We are coming out of a dark period in terms of the economy and people have adjusted and budgeted carefully and spend the money they have got. They are going out and want value for money,' he said.

Another attraction expecting a busy year is the Sandringham Estate in west Norfolk, which reported a busy Easter weekend.

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Helen Walch, public enterprises manager at the royal estate, said: 'The weather has not put people off, as long as it is not chucking it down or snowing, and if it is not sunny, people do not go to the beach and come to an indoor attraction. We have been very busy and that has been very encouraging. We are expecting it to be a busy year with the Diamond Jubilee and people escaping from the Olympics.'

However, the Easter weekend was not so kind on the weather-dependent outdoor attractions on the coast and on the Norfolk Broads.

Peter Williamson, chairman of the Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association and owner of the Merrivale Model Village at Great Yarmouth, said: 'It has not been a disaster and the weather has not been as bad as the forecasters warned. Last Easter, the outdoor attractions won with the sunny weather and this year the indoor attractions have been successful.'

Barbara Greasley, of Broads Tourism and Norfolk Broads Direct, said all of their hire cruisers and holiday homes had been let out, however, the day boat business suffered because of the wet weather yesterday.

'On the whole, day business has been affected by the weather as it always is. However advance holiday bookings have very good and this had given us a very positive start to the year,' she said.

Jo Artherton, marketing manager at BeWILDerwood, near Wroxham, said visitor numbers were 1,000 up on their estimations for the first three days of the long weekend.

Hetti Simpson of Norfolk Hideaways, said Easter holiday cottage bookings were up 69pc on last year on the North Norfolk coast.

'The outlook for the rest of the 2012 season is very positive and the number of people booking holidays in our cottages continues to grow,' she said.

Visitors were determined to have a good time despite the wet weather at the spring fair at the Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse yesterday.

Attendance figures were still being worked out last night but events co-ordinator Hannah Jackson said 'well over 1000' people had gone through the gates during the day.

'It has been brilliant. People have gone home a bit wet – and some of the children were a bit muddy – but everyone seemed happy,' she said.

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