PUBLISHED: 06:00 16 September 2017
A number of Norfolk tourism businesses are investing heavily in their product offerings as the value of tourism to the county continues to grow.
Figures released by Visit Norfolk show tourism has grown from £2.7bn in 2012 to £3.151bn last year.
Year on year, the sector grew 3.2pc from 2015 to 2016.
Visit Norfolk manager Pete Waters said: “These are fantastic figures for Norfolk, signalling five years of significant investment into product by our private sector attractions, and marketing the county with an over-arching umbrella brand that benefits all the destinations.
“This would not have been achieved without the continued backing for the bigger picture of all district authorities and the county council, as well as the destination marketing organisations.
“This has been a unique arrangement in the county’s tourism story and has brought success for all.”
Mr Waters said the visitor economy in England had grown cumulatively by 8pc from 2012-16, in Suffolk by 6pc and in Norfolk by 14pc.
“So Norfolk is outperforming nationally and locally. The visitor economy has also benefited from Brexit, certainly in the short term, with the fall in the value of sterling encouraging more staycations and also more overseas visitors.”
The number of visits from overseas tourists to Norfolk last year was up by 3pc from 2015, the total number of nights by 6pc and spend by 4pc.
Tourism day visits to the county also increased by 3pc from 2015 to 2016 and spend by 4pc.
Mr Waters said: “Our objectives continue to be converting day-trippers to stay-visitors and developing the year-round visitor economy, both of which will help overcome the view of tourism as being seasonal, low-skilled and low-paid.
“If we can increase the year-round value and encourage more spend per visit, it will give employers, particularly in hospitality, the confidence to address some of those issues.”
Employment in the tourism sector has grown from 15pc in 2012 to 17.3pc in 2016.
“Tourism is not a statutory obligation for the public sector so we appreciate their support,” said Mr Waters. “However, they are under financial pressure and we need the private sector to work more closely with us if this upward trend is to continue.”
Since signing a long term lease for the Whitlingham Broad Campsite in Norwich last year, owners Fergus Bootman and Linda Robey have recently spent thousands on upgrading infrastructure at the site.
Mr Bootman said the couple had lived in a caravan on site until January when they were granted permanent planning permission and signed a long term lease.
He said: “We have spent a great deal on improving and upgrading infrastructure and thanks to its location we’re attracting people from around the country and even Europe.”
Simon Altham, from Lowestoft-based self-catering company Hoseasons, said it wasn’t surprising that sustained investment in the region’s tourism sector was translating into greater visitor numbers.
Commenting on the back of the firm’s seventh record summer in row, Mr Altham said: “Norfolk has always proved popular with domestic holidaymakers, but the kind of growth we’ve seen in bookings for the county over the last few years hasn’t happened by accident.
“It’s no coincidence that the property owners we work with who’ve invested in their accommodation and facilities in recent years are the ones who are seeing the greatest returns.”
Ruth Knight, of Broads Tourism, said members were upbeat about the future. “Many are investing in their businesses and things are moving forward. There’s a positive feeling amongst members about tourism prospects across the Broads.”
Banham Zoo director of operations Martin Dupée said they were busy with a new £500,000 Californian sea lion enclosure which they planned to open next year while Holkham Estate completed a £4.5m project last year when it opened new visitor facilities.
JR’s in North Walsham has also recently invested in turning the site into an all-year round family destination for visitors and locals.
Tom Ellis, a director at Norfolk Country Cottages, said the company had seen 25 years of continuous growth in the Norfolk self-catering sector. “We see further growth opportunities in the coming years.
“Our view, which is backed by VisitEngland figures, shows an increasing demand for self-catering nationally, combined with increased visitor numbers for Norfolk, means we have a positive outlook for the coming years in our sector.”