Tourism businesses ‘may not make it through’ 2020 despite record-setting year

Visit East of England executive director Pete Waters Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Visit East of England executive director Pete Waters Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

Parts of the region’s multi-billion pound tourism industry could crumble in the coming months, bosses have warned - despite seeing an all-time record year in 2019.

A busy Cromer beach on one of the hottest days of summer 2020, on Monday NNDC cabinet members met to

A busy Cromer beach on one of the hottest days of summer 2020, on Monday NNDC cabinet members met to discuss how to use funding which has been allocated to the authority to boost the tourism sector out of the traditional season. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

Last year, a three percent growth in Norfolk and four percent growth in Suffolk saw more people employed in the industry than ever before - 69,266 north of the border and 44,498 south of it.

And new figures released by Visit East of England have revealed that the sector as a whole also grew by three percent, to £5.5bn in value.

However, bosses have given stark warning that despite a recent upturn in staycationing, the coronavirus pandemic has left the industry bracing itself for “a sharp decline”.

Pete Waters, executive director of Visit East of England, has urged the government to continue VAT reduction throughout the winter and continue a reduced level furlough scheme until the spring - saying this is the only way it “might have a fighting chance”.

Boats at Wroxham. Broadland's tourism sector missed out millions of pounds in income due to the coro

Boats at Wroxham. Broadland's tourism sector missed out millions of pounds in income due to the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020


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He said: “Although the last few months have been good, they won’t make up for the three months of no income for the sector.

“If all government support ends next month then some businesses may not make it through and many more jobs will be lost. If that happens, it will take years before we see 2019 figures again.”

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These figures saw 84 million day trips made in Norfolk and Suffolk, and 49 million overnight trips - and tourism employment provide more than one in 10 jobs regionwide,

He added: “The figures demonstrate the vital importance of the visitor economy to Norfolk and Suffolk, but we know that 2020 will see a sharp decline and we are not out of the woods yet.”

Ruth Knight, chairman of Visit The Broads Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Ruth Knight, chairman of Visit The Broads Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Peter Williamson, chairman of the Norfolk and Suffolk Tourist Attractions, added: “It is such a shame that following a fantastic 2019 we have had the 2020 tourist season destroyed by the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“The recovery of our industry has started well, but there is a very long and difficult winter for the industry to get through. Nonetheless, we are very positive for 2021.”

Ruth Knight, chairman of Visit the Broads, added that 2020 had been “catastrophic” for tourism in the region.

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