Tourists save Yarmouth from recession

HOLIDAYMAKERS who opted to stay in the UK rather than travel abroad have helped save Great Yarmouth's leisure business from the worst ravages of the recession.

HOLIDAYMAKERS who opted to stay in the UK rather than travel abroad have helped save Great Yarmouth's leisure business from the worst ravages of the recession.

A snap survey of clients by the town's office of accountants and business advisers, PKF found that many in the tourist and retail business had enjoyed as good a summer season as last year, if not better.

“It has been a delicate balancing act, swings and roundabouts,” said Regional Managing Partner Michael Muskett. “Obviously the recession meant there was less money around and a fear for the future of some of our holiday businesses.

“But predictions that more people would come to places like Great Yarmouth to avoid the hassle, poor exchange rates and added cost of trips abroad seem to have been fulfilled. And it has kept the town solvent.

“It could also be good news for the future as those people who came, many for the first time, enjoyed some of the best weather in the UK, the benefits of our vastly improved seafront and all the attractions of a British seaside holiday. There is every reason for them to return.”

Paul Garrod, proprietor at the Furzedown Hotel, said their 50th year was proving to be one of the better ones with business up on previous summer seasons. Many more people were opting for short or weekend stays rather than week-long breaks.

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“People like the improvements to the seafront and St George's Park and we have enough confidence in the future to carry out plans to extend our dining room,” he added.

At the Imperial Hotel, Aileen Mobbs said it had been very busy but final figures were likely to be about the same because of the counter-balance of the recession.

“We have welcomed a lot of visitors who have never been to Great Yarmouth before and even some guests who usually go to the Caribbean - and they've really enjoyed it.”

Rodney Scott, co-proprietor with Ian Scott at Gorleston's Pier Hotel and Great Yarmouth's Pub and Hotel on the Prom, was upbeat about trade in the summer season which had exceeded their expectations.

But he was concerned about the current parking problems near Gorleston Pier which meant he was now delaying further investment.

Parking issues in Yarmouth were a concern for Stephen Docwra, of Docwra's confectioners and rock makers.

“In spite of a good start in July, our trade was not up in the prime season because there was nowhere for visitors to stay and day trippers were put off by the parking problems and prohibitive costs. Many customers mentioned it.”

George Pieri, at Wrights Restaurant, felt business was on a par with last year. He was concerned at how the town emptied out from 5pm with people going back to caravan and holiday parks.

“They spend money in the town but not in the evenings.”

At the Seafood Restaurant, Miriam Kikis said the economy meant that business was no better than last year: “We've certainly broken no records. Hopefully next year we'll be out of recession and the new outer harbour will have made some impact. I'd also like to see stronger and more effective marketing of the town.”

Michael Cole, owner of Joyland, said business was up on the last three years and the weather encouraged short-stay visitors and day trippers. People were impressed by the council investment on improvements to the seafront and he was confident people would come again. “But I'd be cautious for the future after three bad years. You never know what is round the corner.”

At Yarmouth Stadium, general manager Simon Franklin said attendances were similar to last year but with improvements on Monday and Wednesday nights contrasting with a fall in the Saturday numbers, a day usually favoured by locals.

August figures were good but fell away over the Bank Holiday weekend because it was right at the end of the month. There was an interesting increase in the number of stag and hen parties coming to the track for a night out.

Footfall in the Market Gates shopping centre was up during the summer season and the fact that it stayed good after the school holidays suggested that locals still had money to spend if they could find good value, said manager Nick Spencer.

“There seems to be more confidence around. I think we may be coming out of the recession and many have weathered the storm. I hope not too many more will join the casualty list.”