Summer is coming - but is it too late?

The unseasonally wet and cold start to the holiday season has lead to mixed fortunes for East Anglia's billion pound tourism industry.

The unseasonally wet and cold start to the holiday season has lead to mixed fortunes for East Anglia's billion pound tourism industry.

This month has been one of the wettest Julys on record and although weather forecasts for August are looking up, it might prove to be too little too late for some of the region's tourist hotspots.

High water levels have made some parts of the Broads virtually inaccessible to cruisers and only the smallest of boats have been able to pass under the bridges at Wroxham and Potter Heigham.

Pete Sabberton, senior partner at the Sabena boatyard, Wroxham, said that his yard has been flooded for the last month.

He added: “We have had more cancellations than usual and most people are using the weather as an excuse. We're not as booked as we have been in previous years.”

With tourism generating an estimated £2bn a year in Norfolk alone, the area's economy will take a direct hit from the weeks of bad weather.

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Albert Jones, owner of Yarmouth Pleasurebeach, said that crowd numbers had been down by almost a quarter on last summer.

He said: “We've obviously seen some effect from the rain and cold, but I think a lot of people have been put off coming because of the dismal forecasts.

“They've predicted day after day of rain and even though that hasn't been the case here, people have decided not to come.”

After investing £1.5m in a new rollercoaster, Pleasurewood Hills, near Lowestoft, needs a spell of good weather to draw in visitors. Denise Thompson, the park's commercial assistant, said: “The rain has badly affected figures for this month and it's been horrendous. But hopefully with better weather expected soon, things will pick up.”

Tourism directly supports more than 29,000 jobs in Norfolk and brings in 45.6m day-visitors each year, but William Searle, who operates the popular Searles sea tours from the promenade in Hunstanton, said that trade in the resort has been down by almost half compared to last July.

He said: “It's very quiet here and the whole town is feeling the effects. We desperately need it to pick up and have a nice August at the very least.

“People still want to take boat trips and we have a lot of loyal customers who come year after year, but it drains the spirit of the whole resort when business is down.”

But grey clouds overhead do not mean doom and gloom for everyone, as cinemas and indoor attractions have seen their takings go up as people choose to stay undercover.

And David Bakewell, owner of the Norfolk Shire Horse Centre, near Cromer, said: “I've actually been really surprised to see that our figures are up on those of last July.

“Last summer was so hot that people just flocked to the beach. The slightly duller weather suits us a lot better and we have a 250-seater indoor arena where people can see most of what we have to offer, even if it's raining.”

Tim Fullam, marketing director at Lowestoft-based holiday company Hoseasons, said that the high profile reports of terrible weather in other parts of the country have actually encouraged people to holiday in East Anglia and that good and bad seasons are expected in the travel industry.

While last summer's heatwave left the Meadows showground in Watton tinder dry, forcing the organisers of the annual Wayland Show to call it off because of a fire risk, the recent wet weather means that this year's show will go ahead on Sunday with no such risk.

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