Covid cut north Norfolk tourism in half in 2020

The busy Cromer beach on the hottest day of the summer so far. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Tourists were drawn to hotspots including Cromer beach last summer. Despite the strong summer season, the region's economy suffered considerably due to Covid. - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

The pandemic slashed the value of tourism in north Norfolk by more than half in 2020, according to a new report. 

Although guesthouses, campsites and cafes were unusually busy during the summer season due to the 'staycation' boom, the spring and autumn lockdowns - combined with limits on numbers due to social distancing - still had a massive effect.

Sheringham's High Street was busier on April 12 than it had been in months as non-essential shops, c

Sheringham's High Street was quiet during the coronavirus lockdowns, but busting during the high season. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

North Norfolk District Council has just released the Economic Impact of Tourism Report for North Norfolk for 2020, which shows drops across the board in a sector which is normally worth £500 million to the district's economy. 

The report states the total value of tourism was down by 55pc in 2020 on the previous year. Day trips to north Norfolk fell by 56pc and overnight trips fell by 53pc. 

But Richard Kershaw, the council's portfolio holder for sustainable growth, said north Norfolk had fared well compared with other popular British destinations - nationally the drop in tourism was 63pc.

Councillor Richard Kershaw, North Norfolk District Council's portfolio holder for sustainable growth.

Councillor Richard Kershaw, North Norfolk District Council's portfolio holder for sustainable growth. - Credit: Supplied by NNDC

Mr Kershaw said: "We have suffered less than other areas and have had a very busy season this year.

"We need to look to the future to continue this increase but in a sustainable way and help to supply labour to this growing sector by encouraging training in the hospitality field."

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The report states 8,022 people had either full or part-time jobs in north Norfolk's tourism sector in 2020, which was 20pc of the district's total workforce of 40,000. The figure was down by 33pc on 2019, when 11,898 people employed in tourism.  

It shows there were 4.4 million day-trips and multi-day trips made to the district in 2020, and the total value of tourism to the district was more than £237 million.

Kayla Dunne, brand manager at the tourism body Visit North Norfolk, said the report showed how resilient north Norfolk businesses had been throughout the pandemic, as well as the value of central government and district council support.

Kayla Dunne who has been appointed as the new Visit North Norfolk brand manager.

Kayla Dunne, Visit North Norfolk brand manager. - Credit: submitted

Ms Dunne said: "The figures highlight the important role of the local visitor economy sector and employment. We are confident and remain supportive, that the industry will continue to come back stronger in 2022."

Chris Graveling, co-owner of The Grove in Cromer. Picture: Staff

Chris Graveling, co-owner of The Grove in Cromer. - Credit: Archant

Chris Graveling, from The Grove in Cromer, which has hotel rooms as well as self-catering cottages and glamping yurts, said their 2020 figures were “definitely down overall” despite a busy peak tourist season.

Mr Graveling said: “From the second week of July until the end of October it was very busy, but if you are closed for four months you’re not going to recoup those losses.”

His business partner and brother Richard Graveling said that outside the lockdowns, 2020 and 2021 had been their busiest years on record.

Richard said: “As soon as we could open last year we were really busy. This year has also been full-on, and that’s continued right through to November which is normally a quiet month for us”. 

Mr Graveling said the government cutting the VAT rate for hospitality to 5pc during the pandemic had been a godsend, although the rate had since gone up to 12.5pc and is due to return to its full rate of 20pc in April next year. 

He said that was just one of several lingering challenges for the tourism sector.

Mr Graveling added: “Staffing has been an ongoing issue.

“Inflation is a real hidden problem that’s looming, because prices are going to have to go up - that’s something we have to keep an eye on.”

Will Amies is part of the family that runs Breck Farm, near Bodham, which has many holidaymakers cam

Will Amies at Breck Farm, near Bodham, which he and his family run. - Credit: Stuart Anderson

Richard Amies, whose family runs Breck Farm camp site, near Bodham, said its 2020 figures were down “a little bit” on the previous year, although the lockdowns fell largely outside the camping season.

“Other than Easter, we were able to open for the camping season, so it was not too bad, although we did cut the numbers a little so the shower block didn’t get overcrowded," Mr Amies said.

“This year was a bit busier than last year because people have been less worried about Covid."

Mr Amies said the site had about 200 pitches, and they were looking forward to a strong 2022, although, he said, “we can’t predict the future”.  

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