Norfolk urged not to miss out on 2012 London Olympics opportunity
Norfolk's tourism bosses have been urged by the culture secretary not to miss out on the 'once-in-a-generation' to put the county on the map which will be created by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Jeremy Hunt, secretary of state for culture, Olympics, media and sport, said the county was well placed to profit from the Games themselves, but also from a major campaign urging British people to holiday at home.
Mr Hunt hosted an Olympic summit at the OPEN venue in Norwich city centre, where he issued a rallying cry to more than 200 hoteliers, businesses and tourism bosses to make the most of the opportunities the games will present.
He said a �4m television campaign would encourage people visiting the games to travel further afield than London, while also urging people who might otherwise head abroad to think about holidaying in the UK - in places such as Norfolk.
And he even suggested Londoners who want a break from the six weeks of sport in the capital from July and August might want to escape to Norfolk.
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Mr Hunt's visit to Norwich was part of the government's GREAT campaign, a drive to promote UK tourism and to get local firms to sign up to a new website offering a 20.12pc discount scheme.
Mr Hunt said: 'Last year, nearly 10m visitors came to the East of England, supporting more than 240,000 jobs and generating �2bn through overnight stays.
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'Next year, with the Games and our biggest-ever tourism marketing campaign we can do even better.
'With the Torch Relay passing right through the area we have a once-in-a-generation chance to show the world the very best of Norwich and the East of England.
'From the natural beauty of the Norfolk Broads, to cultural and historic sites like Holkham Hall and Gainsborough's House and Michelin-starred restaurants like Morston Hall. the East of England has it all - and we need to make sure the whole world knows.'
He said events such as the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, the Latitude Festival, Norfolk's medieval churches, Norwich's castle and cathedral were all big cultural draws to entice people to the region.
And Mr Hunt also suggested people might even make their way to Norfolk and Suffolk to escape from the Olympics. He said: 'I think you are benefiting and will benefit from the fact that you are so close to what will be the most exciting city on the planet for six weeks this summer. It will be one of the greatest years in London's history and in Olympic history.
'Norfolk will benefit from that, but what I also want to make sure is the people who come to London think about going to Norfolk as well and, of course, you've got that great market of people in London and the South East who may want a break from what's happening and you've got a lot to offer them.
'The main message is that, if we think of the amazing summer we are going to have as six weeks of fun, which it will be, we are going to miss the huge business opportunity we have to really put Norfolk on the map.
'We are going to have the spotlight of the world on Britain this year and television stations from Beijing to Barcelona are going to be talking about our country and I want them to know not just about London but about what's happening in the East of England and Norfolk.'
Mr Hunt was joined by VisitNorwich chairman Caroline Jarrold, Essex County councillor Stephen Castle, the chairman of the East of England, London 2012 Nations and Region group), Martin Green, head of ceremonies at London 2012) and James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive.
With tourism worth around �2.6bn to the Norfolk economy, supporting 49,000 jobs, Ms Jarrold said: 'The East of England is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the UK offering a wealth of different experiences for many types of visitor, whether to vibrant historic and cultural centres such as Norwich and Cambridge, the magnificent coastline of the countryside and the distinctive experiences of the Broads.
'The area is well placed to benefit from the 2012 games, with many points of relatively easy access to the sites through the rail and coach networks. 'The torch relay will also pass through the area, including an overnight stop here in Norwich [July 4], with many cultural activities around it.'
The campaign, and its emphasis that people from home, as well as abroad, should consider Britain as their holiday destination, was welcomed by Norfolk tourism businesses.
Simon Egan, co-founder of BeWILDerwood, near Horning, said: 'It was nice to be at an Olympic event where everyone seemed to be so positive.
'It's nice to have a big campaign focusing on British tourism. The whole holiday at home idea is brilliant. We think this year is going to be one of the biggest we'll have seen for staycationing.' Ian Hacon, chief executive of Blue Sky Leisure, which is the parent company of Kelling Heath near Weybourne and Woodhill Park near Cromer, also welcomed the high profile television campaign and website.
He said: 'I think for us, in North Norfolk, it makes what the government are doing more attractive, because, with the public transport links, I don't think we're going to get people coming up to us from London during the games.
'I think Norwich will benefit from that, but for us, the campaign to get people holidaying in Britain, and beyond just the duration of the games, is very welcome.'
Simon Wright, Norwich South MP, said: 'I think Norfolk has undersold itself in the past, although that is beginning to change.
'We have so much to offer, whether it's the beauty of the Norfolk Broads or the wonderful medieval buildings of Norwich and we really need to sell that nationally, so the Olympics are a good way to do that.'
• The 2012 Larking Gowen - EDP Tourism Business Survey is collecting information from organisations on the issues which matter.
Open until January 29, Larking Gowen chartered accountants and business advisors will help analyse the data before the results are presented during English Tourism Week in March.
You will be able to see the results online at www.edp24.co.uk/tourism survey, in the EDP and in a glossy brochure.
You can also take part at http://services.edp24.co.uk/norfolk/tourism-business-survey
• Don't miss the next edition of the Evening News's Olympic preview supplement, London Calling, on Tuesday, January 31.