Ipswich should be gateway to Suffolk's history and culture - tourism chiefs look to celebrate town's strengths
PUBLISHED: 08:57 24 April 2017 | UPDATED: 08:57 24 April 2017
A new bid to attract thousands more holiday-makers and short-breaks to Ipswich has been launched by the organisation set up to boost tourism in the town.
The Ipswich Destination Management Organisation (DMO) represents hotels and tourist attractions in the town and is holding a conference next month to look at new ways of attracting visitors.
As well as promoting the town’s own attractions, it is also looking to market Ipswich as the perfect place from which holidaymakers can explore the Suffolk countryside, market towns, and coastline.
Alex Paul is DMO chairman and is a director of Gough Hotels, which owns the Salthouse Harbour Hotel on the Ipswich Waterfront. He feels the town has struggled to make an impact on the tourist industry for too long.
He said: “There has been a lot of work going on behind the scenes to prepare for our new strategy because we think there is a real opportunity here.
“There really wasn’t anything being done to promote Ipswich as a tourist destination until now – but we are now really working hard on this.”
Mr Paul said the DMO was targeting different groups – but there was a real opportunity to attract those looking for urban breaks.
He said: “Over recent years there has been a real trend for people to go for more short breaks rather than go away for a long traditional holiday.
“It has focussed on cheap flights taking people to continental cities – but the drop in the value of the pound has meant people are looking for short-breaks in this country.
“Ipswich has a great culture offer for people with the New Wolsey, the Regent, and the Dance House and everything else that is going on like Pacetti, the Red Rose Chain and Eastern Angles.
“There’s also all the history and art with the mansion, the Constable paintings and Christchurch Park.”
Mr Paul said Ipswich was also the obvious place for tourists to base themselves to discover Suffolk more deeply.
“You might come to Ipswich because you’re interested in the Constables on show here and then go down the road to Flatford – and then go over to Sudbury to see Gainsborough’s House and another great Suffolk artist.”
And the town is also the perfect base for visiting other parts of Suffolk: “There’s the coast which is not far away, attractive towns like Woodbridge that are worth exploring. And then there are the links with Sutton Hoo for those interested in history.”
Mr Paul said the value of tourism to the town was estimated at about £220m in 2015.
The DMO group had the aim of increasing visitor numbers by about 10% by 2020 – around another 29,000 visitors – which would bring in another £25m to the local economy.
He said: “There is more to offer all the time in Ipswich. The retail offer is improving and there are plenty of attractions for visitors.
“The Waterfront is quite spectacular. We used to look at it on a good day and say ‘we could be in the south of France’ but we don’t really want to think like that now – we want Ipswich to be recognised as the region’s Waterfront town.
“We want people to think of what the Waterfront is when they first think of Ipswich – and I don’t see why we cannot do that.”
Although Mr Paul is from one particular hotel with a high-quality reputation, he said it was important to market the town to people with a range of requirements.
He said: “The town has something to offer those who want a relaxing stay on the Waterfront – but also those who want to stay here to use as a touring base or as a place to stay with friends for a hen or stag weekend.”
There are plenty of hotel rooms in the town, especially at weekends, and the aim of increasing the number of visitors was something that could be achieved within the current town structure.
He said: “There are some very exciting plans for the town in the future, like the new Upper Orwell Crossings and other schemes – but this is an aim that can be achieved in the town as it exists at the moment.
“There is the culture here now. The history in and around the town is there for people to see and Ipswich is very accessible.
“Yes it will be even better in the future – but there is plenty here now and with an increased demand for urban tourism there is no reason why Ipswich should not be able to benefit from that.”