Tourism boost for East of England

THE East of England has become one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations with visitor numbers during April and June up 15% on last year.

Jonathan Schofield

THE East of England has become one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations with visitor numbers during April and June up 15% on last year.

The latest figures from East of England Tourism (EET) show that the region now outstrips visitor numbers to Scotland - giving a boost to the economy as holiday makers head east instead of flying overseas.

From the beaches of Suffolk and Norfolk to the pubs and clubs of Essex - more than �5.2billion was ploughed into East Anglia's tourist industry as recession pinched families chose to visit the region during one of the driest summers on record.

And year on year East Anglia is already up 8% on 2008 - the highest increase of any region in the country.

EET's chief executive Keith Brown said East Anglia had definitely benefited from the downturn in the economy and the good weather but the challenge was now on to keep the tourists coming.

Most Read

More than 200 businesses from the region gathered at the EET's AGM and Conference in Newmarket yesterday to hear that �800,000 of European money had been secured to invest in the 8,000 businesses associated with the tourist industry over the next three years. This will be on top of the current �2million a year spent on promoting the region.

Mr Brown said: “It is vital to our economy that we keep people coming and ensure that the 'Staycation' remains a British way of taking a holiday. The tourist industry in the East of England employs more than 200,000 people across thousands of small to medium sized businesses. If this was combined into one company it would be one of the biggest in the UK.”

Before making his keynote speech yesterday he explained why the East of England had now outstripped visitor numbers to Scotland.

“You have to remember there are 20 million people within an hour by car, bus or train to the east. This is a rural area with no major motorways and doesn't have any of the problems blighting places like Devon and Cornwall where country lanes get gridlocked with traffic in the summer.”

He said Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk had become the nation's favourite destinations thanks to their abundance of quiet beaches, unspoilt market towns and villages and the unique flavour of its food.

“Figures show that well over seven or eight million people who would normally head overseas stayed in the UK this year and clearly we benefited massively. We can't be complacent and must build on this. It is down to everyone now to make a concerted effort to ensure we remain one of the UKs favourite places to visit,” he added.

Panel: Travel stats

- Despite a downturn in international visitor numbers to the UK of 10% (3.3million) this year, the East of England bucked the trend with a 2% increase between April and June.

-In the 12 month period to August 2009 the number of UK residents heading overseas fell by 13% from the previous year - from 70.8 to 61.4 million

-Numbers to America dropped 22% from 4.8 to 3.7 million

-European visits fell by 13% from 56 to 48.6 million

-In 2008 over 22 million people flew into Stansted Airport, 10million to Luton, 583,000 to Norwich, 44,000 to Southend and 1,854 to Cambridge.