Boom year for East Anglian tourism

East Anglia's tourist attractions are celebrating a bumper year thanks to plenty of good weather and a boom in the number of families holidaying at home.

East Anglia's tourist attractions are celebrating a bumper year thanks to plenty of good weather and a boom in the number of families holidaying at home.

It comes as the East of England was named as one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations with visitor numbers during April and June up 15pc on last year.

The latest figures from East of England Tourism (EET) show that the region now outstrips visitor numbers to Scotland - giving a boost to the economy as holidaymakers head east instead of flying overseas.

From the beaches of Norfolk and Suffolk to the pubs and clubs of Essex, more than �5.2b was ploughed into East Anglia's tourist industry as recession-pinched families chose to visit the region during one of the driest summers on record.

And year on year East Anglia is already up 8pc on 2008 - the highest increase of any region in the country.

EET's chief executive Keith Brown said East Anglia had definitely benefited from the downturn in the economy and the good weather but the challenge was now on to keep the tourists coming.

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Clare Millar, head of marketing for VisitNorwich, said right across the tourism industry in Norfolk the picture over the last six months has been extremely positive. “The British tourists are re-discovering our fantastic county and the beautiful city of Norwich,” she said.

“We are delighted that our industry has benefited from the silver lining in an economic black cloud but it has to be said that volume is only part of the picture. As with other parts of the economy, many businesses are seeing rising costs and therefore have to lower rates to attract the business.

“The challenge for us going forward is to build on the success of 2009. We at VisitNorwich together with our colleagues throughout the county need to make sure that we give people plenty of reasons to come back, stay longer and visit throughout the year.”

Jo Artherton, marketing manager at BeWILDerwood at Hoveton, said its visitor numbers we are up about 15pc on last year, and Mark Noble, marketing and sales manager at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve, near Fakenham, said it had also had a great year.

Belinda Cammell, owner of the Cliftonville Hotel at Cromer, echoed this and said: “We have had a really fantastic year. We have been here quite a while now and we have clientele who come year after year, but this year we have had a lot of new customers who have never been to Norfolk before and have always holidayed abroad, so it has been really good to get these 'Staycationers'.”

More than 200 businesses from the region gathered at the EET's AGM and conference in Newmarket to hear that �800,000 of European money had been secured to invest in the 8,000 businesses associated with the tourist industry over the next three years. This will be on top of the current �2m a year spent on promoting the region.

Mr Brown said: “It is vital to our economy that we keep people coming and ensure that the 'Staycation' remains a British way of taking a holiday. The tourist industry in the East of England employs more than 200,000 people across thousands of small to medium sized businesses. If this was combined into one company it would be one of the biggest in the UK.”

- Despite a downturn in international visitor numbers to the UK of 10pc (3.3million) this year, the East of England bucked the trend with a 2pc increase between April and June.

-In the 12 month period to August 2009 the number of UK residents heading overseas fell by 13pc from the previous year - from 70.8 to 61.4m

-Numbers to America dropped 22pc from 4.8 to 3.7m -European visits fell by 13pc from 56 to 48.6m

-In 2008 over 22m people flew into Stansted Airport, 10m to Luton, 583,000 to Norwich, 44,000 to Southend and 1,854 to Cambridge.