Can staycations plug Norfolk's £70m foreign tourism gap?
- Credit: Hoseasons
Norfolk stands to lose £70m this year with overseas visitors visitors barred from entering the country.
But tourism bosses are optimistic that having a captive audience will mean a bumper domestic summer - recouping the losses and more.
In previous years the county has raked in millions from countries in Europe according to figures from Visit Britain, with countries like France and the Netherlands leading the way spending £10.6m and £4.4m respectively.
Further afield the United States of American and Canada are also regular visitors, with American tourists spending £5.35m in Norfolk and Canadians spending some £4.2m.
Overall this saw the total number of visitors in 2019 - the latest year available with results unimpacted by the pandemic - sits at just over 205,000 people, with the average visitor spending around £341 per visit.
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Across the border in Suffolk total expenditure from overseas stands at £51.8m after it saw 146,000 visitors.
And Norfolk cannot simply expect overseas tourists to return when they can, said Andy Wood, chairman of Visit East of England.
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"Norfolk and Suffolk cannot rest on their laurels and expect people to come back. Britain as a whole needs to be looking at how it can market itself globally to get those people coming back," he said.
"Tourism is competitive and it has never been more so. Visit Britain will be looking at 2022 and how we can share the fact that this country, and places like Norfolk and Suffolk, have a high quality offering, high quality service, and is safe to visit.
"Globally we also need to see the vaccine rolled out so that governments can begin to reopen boarders. It's the whole idea that no one's truly safe until we're all safe."
He added that in the more immediate future Norfolk's hospitality bosses will have plenty to celebrate.
"Losing that overseas demand in any other year would be a worry, but this year we also know people can't go abroad which gives us somewhat of a captive audience.
"We know it's going to be extremely busy with domestic demand this summer, which I suspect will make up for the shortfall in overseas travel."
He added: "I don't think one area - the coast or the broads for example - will benefit over areas like our larger towns and cities. What's so great about this region is that you can get it all within a fairly small radius - a trip up to the coast or a day in the city. And we've got a lot of variety in our offering: cathedrals, markets, food and drink, areas like Tombland in Norwich, as well as the beautiful coastline and Broads.
"What I do think more urban areas will need to look at is their mix of retail and hospitality, as we know retail has had a very tough time whereas hospitality offerings like restaurants and cafes may bounce back more quickly."
And hospitality bosses are optimistic staycationers will make up the shortfall, and then some.
Nigel Waters, managing director of Waterways Holidays, a national chain specialising in boating and riverside getaways, said: "Pre-pandemic, up to 11pc of our recent guests to the Broads were from overseas. This has dropped to almost zero over the past 12 months with travel restrictions.
"But the loss of overseas guests has been more than made up by the growth in staycation holidays, particularly for family holidays of a week or longer."
The travel ban is also working in their favour to some extent, he said: "We have seen a strong and rapid recovery of bookings due to the increase in staycations as a direct result of the current difficulty in planning overseas holidays.
"Many more newcomers are experiencing their first Broads boating holiday in 2021 and many others who experienced a boating holiday for the first time in 2020 have now booked again. We also expect strong staycation sales to continue into 2022 with a higher than normal level of advance bookings already in place for next year already.
"Demand has partly been driven by families viewing staycation holidays in self-catering accommodation such as boats and cottages as being a good Covid-secure choice, offering them the option to be as self-contained as they wish."