'We expect to be fully booked' - Tourism industry optimistic for year ahead
- Credit: Neal Trafankowski
Norfolk’s tourism industry is optimistic that 2022 will be a good year - even though there could still be some disruption from Covid.
This time of year is traditionally when people start booking their summer holidays and many Norfolk cottages are already getting booked up for the summer season.
“January is our busiest times for peak bookings,” said Lucy Richardson from holiday cottage firm Crabpot Cottages. “We’ve seen an increase in bookings for this year and we expect to be fully booked this summer.
“We’ve also seen quiet a lot of enquiries for January, February and March this year, which is normally our lowest season.”
Ms Richardson said that they are confident that they will have a good year and, even if international travel does become easier, she believes that holidaymakers won’t cancel their bookings.
Waterways Holidays, which offers boating and holiday cottages on the Norfolk Broads, is also getting booked up for the year ahead.
Nigel Richards, managing director of Waterways Holidays, said: “Advance bookings are at a strong level and there is an indication that there is still hesitancy for many customers to travel abroad.
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“During 2021 people tended to stay with UK holidays and this year we are seeing the same. I don’t think people will cancel if restrictions are removed for travelling abroad, as those who wish to go abroad tend to delay making a booking.”
He added that the pandemic had not only seen a trend towards customers booking for short-stay breaks but the “trend is also towards long holidays, as people are taking their main holiday in the UK.”
This is good news for the region as not only do visitors to Norfolk bring money to the tourist industry but also to the region as a whole, with Mr Richards saying that retailers, attractions and hospitality all benefit from the tourism economy.
Even at the height of the pandemic, tourism brought a substantial amount of money into Norfolk.
According to an Economic Impact of Tourism Norfolk – 2020 report published by Visit Norfolk during 2020, tourism brought more than £1.5bn to the region.
It also created 43,414 jobs which amounted for 12.2pc of Norfolk’s employment.
As restrictions eased last year, the number of visitors to Norfolk grew, particularly attracting those looking for a UK-based holiday due to Covid restrictions on international travel.
"2021 was a very good year for tourism," said Richard Kershaw, sustainable growth and employment portfolio holder at North Norfolk District Council.
"Last year we recovered from 2020. It was a big growth year, better than 2020 and 2019."
With an abundance of beautiful beaches, many from across the UK come to Norfolk looking for a coastal holiday and destinations such as Cromer, Sheringham and Wells remain popular with visitors.
But Mr Kershaw revealed that during the winter he had been working closely with Visit North Norfolk to widen the tourism offering, with plans to bring tourism inland and they are looking for ways to lengthen the tourism season beyond summer.
While 2022 is set to be a big year for the Norfolk tourism industry, the sector continues to face challenges from the pandemic, with companies facing uncertainty about the potential for further restrictions and some experiencing staff shortages.
Kate Sparrow, chairperson for Visit the Broads and owner of Beccles-based Hippersons Boatyard, which offers self-catering holidays on the Broads, said: “As a business owner I’m more optimistic that we will be able to open and will be able to meet the [Government Covid] requirements. I’m quietly optimistic and confident about the season ahead.
“As a Visit the Broads chairperson I’m still optimistic but some of our members have struggled, especially with staff shortages.”
Although challenges remain for the Norfolk tourism industry, lessons learnt from two years of coping with the pandemic, along with preparations made over the winter period, means that many within the sector are optimistic that 2022 will be a good year for tourism.
Places to visit in Norfolk 2022
Family days out
Roarr! Dinosaur Adventure
Based in Lenwade, ROARR! includes over 25 dinosaur themed attractions across 85 acres, complete with play areas, splash park, theatre, eateries and a secret animal garden.
This award-winning Hoveton-based outdoor adventure park features characters from the BeWILDerwood books. Across the park visitors will discover a range of activities including treehouses, boat rides and walks.
Set across 50 acres of parkland and gardens in Banham, this award-winning zoo is home to over 2,000 animals from across the world.
Part of the National Trust, Sheringham Park has nearly 1,000 of acres for walkers to explore which takes them through countryside and along the coast.
Norfolk Broads National Park
The Norfolk Broads has a wide range of activities to offer both on and off the water. Sailing, boating, kayaking and paddle boarding are all popular water activities, while those preferring to stay on dry land can enjoy scenic walking and cycling routes.
Holkham Hall & Estate
Privately-owned Holkham Hall is an 18th-century country house that is open to the public on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays during the summer season. Close to Holkham Hall and owned by the same family is Holkham Beach, a popular sandy beach that is open to the public daily.
A National Trust Property, Blickling Hall is a stately home set within acres of parkland located close to the town of Aylsham. It is open year-round and regularly holds family-friendly activities and events.
Located near to King's Lynn, Sandringham is the Queen’s country retreat. Its parkland is open to the public throughout the year, while the house, garden and church are closed during the winter but open again in the spring.