Europe’s leading hire boat firm Le Boat has closed its base at Somerleyton after only one season in a move seen as a blow to the Southern Broads economy.

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One full-time staff member and a seasonal worker lost their jobs in the firm’s decision to focus on its base at Horning on the Northern Broads.

Some of the 12 Le Boat cruisers at Somerleyton have been moved to Horning with the rest going to Scotland.

The move reflects a difficult season for all hire boat firms last year when bookings were hit by a washout summer, ongoing economic woes and the distraction of the Olympics.

At the time, Le Boat launched a light-hearted video encouraging families to visit the Broads during the Olympics - and keep up with action on their on-board television.

However, in the first week of the school summer holidays the EDP learned that just a handful of boats had been hired at Somerleyton.

Distribution director Kate Bray said: “Due to demand year on year it was felt that having two bases would not be a business benefit for 2013.

“Efforts are being made to improve Horning performance and early indications are suggesting this decision was right.

“This season, the weather, for obvious reasons, has impacted on early business for the Broads. However, indications for summer 2013 are looking very positive with sales for May departures ahead of last year and customer confidence strong.”

She said they had not built any new boats for the Broads this season, the company focusing investment on the Thames and Ireland, but they would be reviewing the Horning fleet for 2014.

Barbara Greasley, chairman of Broads Tourism, said she was saddened to hear Le Boat had decided to pull out of Somerleyton after operating hire cruisers there for just one season.

She said: “Broads Tourism has been working with the Broads Society on a regeneration of the Southern Broads project, so the closure of another hire boat yard on the Southern Broads is particularly disappointing.

“This boatyard closure will mean that there will be less free moorings and facilities for hirers on the Southern Broads.” She said it came in the wake of disappointing news that boaters will now be charged £3 to moor at Reedham Quay.

She said: “As Broads Tourism we will continue to work with the Broads Society. So far this has involved working with the Broads Authority to encourage visitors to travel from the Northern to the Southern Broads.

“The Broadcaster this year has a very good article about the Southern Broads and the instructions for navigating Breydon Water have been written so that it doesn’t seem such an onerous ordeal, although as always safety remains of paramount importance.”

James Knight, boss of Waveney River Centre, Burgh St Peter, a flagship for camping and boating on the Southern Broads, said it had always been a tougher environment for tourism businesses than the Northern Broads.

“It attracts a different type of person, who is looking for peace and tranquillity rather than constant entertainment,” he said.

However, his long-term aim, when the economy improves, is still to introduce hire cruisers alongside the existing day boats at Waveney River Centre.

While the market remained challenging, he said he was buoyed by the amount of repeat bookings and positive customer

Le Boat’s Somerleyton base is now being run by the Somerleyton estate, which owns it, as a marina and repair yard.

6 comments

  • James is absolutely right. It's easy for someone looking in to make negative comment, but once in posession of the facts, such comments can be shown to have no grounding. The Broads is by far the cheapest place in the UK to hire a boat for a holiday or even an hour. A lesser spec, but same boat as mine on the Thames is as much as £366 more expensive. It's not an expensive holiday when you consider that a great deal of the entertainment is the boat and boat travel itself. There are many new and very expensive cruisers to be hired on the Broads, but many more older but no less capable vessels for a more attractive price. Yes, it looks expensive and you can demonstrate it to be, but I can demonstrate otherwise too. Great, send all your money to other countries, see how that pans out for the economy in the long term. The cruiser on Breydon was a massive mistake by the hirer who ploughed the vessel onto the mud bank at high tide. You could have just as easily pointed out a car crash that closed the A11. It's a non point. The Broads is a valuable locall resource that needs constant investment and support. Without it, Norfolk would lose a massive amount of tourism and with it the majority of the county's income.

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    FreedomCruisers

    Thursday, April 11, 2013

  • V - please check your facts. Barbara Greasley is one of the owners of Broads Tours and Faircraft Loynes who operate one of the largest fleets on the Broads. Hardly a non-job. Neither is Broads Tourism a quango - it is an organisation set up by Broads holiday businesses to help promote Broads Tourism. Musicman - on what have you based your opinion that boats are 'over priced'? Do you know how much it costs to build a hire boat or to operate a Broads based business? Please let readers know how you would do it cheaper. Daisy Roots - fewer boats = worse Broads I'm afraid if you do the maths. Over 40% of the Broads income comes from river tolls and this is increasing. Less boats = less income = less dredging and river management = more siltation = Broads revert to mud carr which is its natural state. Don't forget that the Broads are the way they are *because* they are man-made and *because* they have been managed in the way that they have over centuries.

    Report this comment

    James Knight

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

  • I am not surprised as people are turning their backs on the broads, it's far too expensive to hire a boat and if the weather is bad, well it's absolutely dreadful.

    Report this comment

    Heading for Squalor

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

  • I have just had a look on the webs site of the boards crusiers. NO WAY !!....... The average working person can get a fortnight abroad for the same price as a week on the boats !! I would love a week on the water but when looking for value for money.. the broads are over priced.

    Report this comment

    musicman

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

  • "Barbara Greasley, chairman of Broads Tourism...." Yet another quango with a non jobber.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

  • Good -fewer boats, better Broads. Tourism in the broadland area should be focusing on hotel , B&B and self catering provision and access to the broads via walking,electric boat and crewed tours in a way which does not destroy them. Ten berth boats complete with flat screen TVs and jacuzzis stuffed with the chavs who load up with food and booze bought back in suburbanland -most of them look as if they might as well be on Planet Zog as at St Benets.The holiday cruisers which erode waterways and stir up sediments and churn up water plants are no asset .Then there is the special breed of incomer waterside landlord exploiting the boat market with dreadful cheap food and paying locals minimum wage-also no asset except to the suppliers of frozen food and cooking oil. I know the boat holidays create employment but one wonders how much from the big company hires really stays and gets spent again in Norfolk .The broads would be better for fewer and better- more Big Six and Coot club than HiDeHi afloat. And not afloat is the cruiser stuck on a bank on Breydon-it was there Sunday and still there today.

    Report this comment

    Daisy Roots

    Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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