Norfolk tourism chiefs say government must maximise Olympic gains

Tourism chiefs in Norfolk are urging the government to do everything possible to capitalise on Olympics fervour and ensure the London Games deliver maximum long-term economic benefits to the region.

Representatives of East Anglia's tourism industry, which is worth �2.6bn a year to the regional economy, say the most significant potential gains are those from a long-term boost to visitor numbers created by publicity surrounding the Games and international recognition of their success.

They are calling on ministers to increase investment on 'selling' the UK abroad in the afterglow of the Games which not only saw a record haul of 65 medals for British competitiors but also provided a boost for the country's image.

And they say once foreign visitors have been enticed to Britain, they are confident they can showcase the myriad attractions of the region and get more people to visit.

Their comments come as culture secretary Jeremy Hunt prepares to give a speech today exploring what the tourism 'legacy' could be for the UK.

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The EDP understands he will announce further investment for advertising and marketing campaigns aimed at bringing more foreign visitors to Britain.

There will also be a move to offer special deals for travel to the UK, carried out in conjunction with airlines, hotels and tour operators.

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Tourism leaders will welcome government attempts to cash in on the goodwill the 2012 Games have generated abroad towards Britain.

Keith Brown, chief executive of Visit East Anglia, the body set up to promote tourism in the region, said: 'The Olympics bring a major global audience and if these campaigns maintain that interest then that is a good route to go down.

'It is not the kind of thing that an organisation like ours can do individually, so we need the government to make that part happen. We must take advantage of the warm feeling a lot of people have for the UK around the globe.

'We need the government to get people to come to the UK and then we can fight for our share of that market.'

The immediate effect of the Olympics on East Anglia tourism remains unclear, with more telling data due out in the next month or so.

The Larking Gowen EDP Tourism Business survey, published in March, revealed mixed expectations about the benefits the Games would bring for the region. While 40pc of businesses viewed them as an opportunity, 42pc felt they would make no difference at all to tourism in Norfolk and nearly one fifth identified the Games as a threat.

The tourism industry has taken a battering this year from the general economic climate and the weather.

Chris Scargill, tourism and leisure partner at Larking Gowen Chartered Accountants and author of the survey, said that if there were a tourism legacy to be had, he believed Norfolk would benefit.

He said: 'While the main focus of the Olympics, highlighted by the sets used for the opening and closing ceremonies, has been on London, overseas viewers will have seen a great advert for Britain as a whole and as a result we will see something positive with people coming in to the UK.

'If people are coming to stay, then we should be looking to get our fair share of those customers.'

Nick Bond, head of tourism at Visit Norwich, suggested the immediate impact of the Games on tourism had not been significant for the city.

He said: 'However, if you look at the international markets they show that the UK is now seen in a positive light merely by way of having hosted the Games and the global reach of the media coverage and publicity.

'People's interest in the UK has been raised. That means there is strong potential for growth.

'It's a good idea for the government to invest now. It would be good to see them doing that in campaigns aimed at both the international and domestic markets.'

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