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Holidaymakers are giving up ‘soggy Cornwall’ for ‘sunny Suffolk’, tourist expert says

PUBLISHED: 06:35 10 October 2017 | UPDATED: 08:24 10 October 2017

One of Suffolk's gems - a beautiful early spring day at Southwold Beach. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

One of Suffolk's gems - a beautiful early spring day at Southwold Beach. Picture: LUCY TAYLOR

Holidaymakers are showing signs of swapping “soggy Cornwall” for “weatherproof” Suffolk as Brexit fuels the region’s booming staycation market, a tourism chief has said.

Newmarket horse racing - one of the county's great attractions. Picture: ARCHANTNewmarket horse racing - one of the county's great attractions. Picture: ARCHANT

Chris Scargill, tourism and leisure partner at Larking Gowen, said Suffolk may have been an “undiscovered location” before the rise of staycations – British holidaymakers staying in the UK – triggered by the 2008 recession and now boosted by fears over Brexit and the falling pound.

It comes on the day a new VisitBritain report shows domestic overnight holidays in England rose by 7% to reach a record 20.4 million from January to July this year. Visitors spent a record £4.6 billion, up 17%.

There are no regional figures but a snapshot summer survey of businesses in Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex by Larking Gowen found 51% reported better trade than summer 2016 despite the bad weather. Trade was worse for 27%. Others said there was no change (15%) or did not know (7%).

Mr Scargill said: “The fall in the pound has made people think twice about spending a disproportionate amount of money on their holidays – and getting stuck at airports.

“Brexit has created additional demand for Suffolk because they haven’t gone abroad.

“Even though the weather in July was bad, Suffolk did incredibly well and proved that it’s weatherproof. It is not just about the lovely beaches; there is culture, history. If you’re not going abroad, where you are going to go? Suffolk has an eclectic range: a day at the races, the coast, Constable Country. People are now discovering Essex for the first time as well. It is a really good trend.

“There is no science behind the fact that more people are now coming to Suffolk. It’s a matter of fact that the East is traditionally drier and sunnier than the west country. Maybe people are giving up soggy Cornwall for a sunnier and drier Suffolk.

Flatford between Christmas and New Year on a crisp sunny day - people love the county's special character and countryside. Picture: MICK WEBBFlatford between Christmas and New Year on a crisp sunny day - people love the county's special character and countryside. Picture: MICK WEBB

“Staycations have certainly benefitted the whole of the UK since the recession. For whatever reason, the tourism sector in our area has grown and grown and continues to grow. Perhaps it was an undiscovered location. People now find us, talk about us to their friends, then come back.

“We are certainly seeing shorter breaks. For people in the home counties, they can pop here for the weekend. It is only one-and-a-half or two hours in the car. You don’t want to haul yourself to the north or the Lake District. We are benefitting from a number of current trends and supported by business investment; that’s the key. They are really stepping that up big time.

“The Ipswich waterfront is a key example, with its expansion and restaurants. It is not all about the coast. It is the whole of Suffolk, which makes it more appealing with a wide range of activities and not just in key seasons.

Amanda Bond, manager of Visit Suffolk, said: “In 2016, Suffolk saw an increase in visitor spend of £66.7m compared to 2015, with total visits at 32.5m. Working in collaboration with Visit East Anglia, we have been able to benefit through overseas promotional campaigns in the Netherlands and North America, and saw a growth in overseas visits to the region by 10%, compared to just 4% nationally.”

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