Poll: Tourists flock to Ipswich during busy summer of cultural events

The first stage of the Tour of Britain starts from the Waterfront, Ipswich. Team Sky's Mark Carvendi

The first stage of the Tour of Britain starts from the Waterfront, Ipswich. Team Sky's Mark Carvendish at the start line. The race has been given as one reason why visitor numbers have increased. - Credit: Archant

Overseas visitors flocked to Ipswich last year as tourist numbers soared by 43 percent, new figures show.

The town featured in the top 50 places visited in 2012 - bucking the trend across Suffolk.

Town bosses claim the varied diary of events last year have put Ipswich firmly on the map, including the popular maritime festival and the start of the Tour of Britain.

VisitBritain today published visitor numbers for the entire country, which peaked at 31 million visitors, thanks in part to the 2012 London Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee.

London accounted for more than half the visits overseas tourists made to the UK last year. Of the 31 million trips foreign residents took to the UK in 2012, a total of 15.46 million were to London, statistics from VisitBritain showed.

Edinburgh was the second most-visited destinations, with more than 1.25 million visits, with Manchester third (932,000), Birmingham fourth (713,000) and Liverpool fifth (550,000).

Ipswich featured in the top 50 destinations with 76,000 visitors, falling slightly behind Norwich and Cambridge. No other town in Suffolk or Essex featured in the list. Bury St Edmunds has seen visitor numbers fall by 48% from 2010, while Felixstowe saw numbers rise slightly by 2,000.

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Carole Jones, portfolio-holder for economic development and tourism at Ipswich Borough Council, said she was “delighted but not surprised” by the leap in visitors.

“The figures relate to 2012 – when we had the Tour of Britain, the Olympic flame, Ip-art, Maritime Ipswich, PULSE and the SPILL festival - but this year is also proving to be superb. Ip-art is the biggest arts festival in Suffolk and is culturally inclusive and Maritime Ipswich will be better than ever. It is great to be in the top 50 of British destinations but this is long overdue.

“Ipswich is the oldest English town and has a long and proud history. It is also a contemporary and pulsating regional centre. We are only an hour from London and we are also benefitting from the success of the university. I love Ipswich and I am glad more people are finding out what makes us tick.”

Amanda Bond, brand manager for Visit Suffolk, said Ipswich’s cultural reinvention had helped boost visitor numbers.

She said: “It’s no surprise to hear of Ipswich’s rise in visitor numbers.

“It’s cultural reinvention, modernised waterfront, extraordinary heritage and events like the Tour of Britain make it a fascinating place to visit. In addition, its proximity to London and excellent transport links into the capital will have stood it in good stead, especially if London topped the poll. It’s fantastic news for Ipswich and good news for nearby towns and villages which can only benefit as we encourage visitors to stay longer.”

Minister for tourism Hugh Robertson added: “We showcased the very best of Britain last year encouraging overseas visitors to come and see for themselves what our great country has to offer.

“I am encouraged that destinations across Britain have seen visitor numbers rise and we will do all we can to keep up that momentum. Tourism spend is up and I am confident that the industry can continue to grow and increase its contribution to the economy further.”

The Ipswich Star’s I Love Ipswich campaign has been celebrating the highlights of the town to help improve the town’s reputation.

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