Walking festival provides £200K boost to Suffolk's tourism businesses
PUBLISHED: 14:51 02 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:53 02 September 2019
Organisers say "overnighters" make a holiday around the event, staying in hotels and self-catering cottages, and eating in the county's pubs, restaurants and cafes.
This year's Suffolk Walking Festival generated over £200,000 for the county's economy, organisers have said.
The three-week event, which takes place every May, sees people enjoy a wide variety of guided walks at locations throughout Suffolk.
The festival has grown over 12 years to become a staple in the event calendar and this year's proved to be the largest and most popular with more than 120 walks and fringe events being held and more than 2,000 people taking part.
Events included visits to mysterious Orford Ness and ancient Anglo Saxon villages, walking with a sheepdog and a trip on a Thames Barge down the River Orwell.
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Figures for the festival show that 84% of this year's participants live in Suffolk while 16% of walkers came from outside the county with 19% of all those taking part staying overnight.
Festival director David Falk said it is these "overnighters" that bring the "most value" to Suffolk's economy, as they make a holiday around the event, staying in hotels and self-catering cottages, and eating in the county's pubs, restaurants and cafes.
It has been calculated the 2019 event pumped more than £218,000 into the Suffolk economy - an impressive 30% uplift on the amount generated in 2018.
Mr Falk said: "Both people living in Suffolk and those from elsewhere choose to stay overnight when taking part in the festival. I met one couple from Liverpool who had been to the Isle of Wight Walking Festival several times and thought they would give Suffolk a try and stayed on Woodbridge for five nights.
"Another couple from Thetford came across to take part in the five -day Challenge Walk from Lowestoft to Ipswich and camped near Aldeburgh for their stay."
He added: "Our biggest challenge is maintaining interest in the festival year on year. We do that by challenging our team of walk leaders to come up with something different or adding something extra to their walk. That may be as simple as including a cup of tea and a piece of cake, or it may be offering exclusive access on a private estate as we did on our Elveden Estate Breakfast Walk when we also met the estate's deer stalker. It's all about creating memorable moments for our guests."
Planning for the 2020 festival has already started and tickets due to go on sale next March.