Suffolk: Is the county missing out on a Games boost?

THREE months after his controversial appointment as the county’s Olympic Ambassador, council leader – and police commissioner candidate – Tim Passmore has welcomed only one delegation.

And The Star can reveal today that there have been concerns among some civic leaders that the region has missed out on some of the tourist benefits associated with the Games.

However, the body set up last year to promote tourism in East Anglia insisted that campaigns were working – and that more people would be visiting the region during 2012.

Mr Passmore was chief executive of Choose Suffolk until it was disbanded at the end of last year – it had been funded by the East of England Development Agency which was wound up at the same time.

Visit East Anglia is a private sector company set up to promote Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire. The Star understands that council chiefs have held meetings with the new body urging it to “raise its game” as the Olympics approached.

Suffolk County Council appointed Mr Passmore, who is leader of Mid Suffolk council, as the county’s Olympic ambassador to show VIPs – including ambassadors and international journalists – around.

His appointment was controversial because he was initially offered �300 a day for the role – but after publicity in The Star Mr Passmore decided not to take any payment.

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So far he has only had one visit – from the Japanese ambassador – but there is a visit from a delegation from China planned next month, and there could be further visits from groups from Romania, Malta, and Nigeria.

However, all the responses to the invitations came direct from Mr Passmore’s letters to embassies – he had asked both Visit East Anglia and Visit England to help him but these requests had not led to any visits.

Mr Passmore said: “The visit from the Japanese ambassador was very worthwhile, he got a very good view of what Suffolk has to offer from both a business and tourism point of view.

“I am looking forward to the other visits which should be able to raise the profile of the county.”

VISIT East Anglia’s Suffolk Brand Manager Amanda Bond said the organisation had been actively promoting the county in the run-up to the Games.

A series of advertisements had been put up in 25 of the busiest London Underground sites for two weeks earlier this month which had been seen by millions of travellers.

Mrs Bond said Visit East Anglia was co-ordinating a major publicity drive for the region across London – including pages in a series of newspapers published by Archant, the publishers of the Ipswich Star.

She said: “There are two messages during the games, one is that this is a good base from which to visit the games in East London but also that this is a good area to come to escape everything that is happening and recharge your batteries for a day or two.”

Figures showed that the number of self-catering holidays booked in the region had increased by between five and eight per cent this year – and reports from hotels suggested that their visitor numbers would be up this year also.

She said that Visit East Anglia had been working with Visit England to bring journalists to the region – she could not comment on Mr Passmore’s role because she was not involved in his work.

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