Attractions toast bumper Bank Holiday weekend

Tourism bosses were last night toasting a bumper Bank Holiday after tens of thousands shrugged off the weather and flocked to Norfolk.Attractions told of record numbers and sell-out shows.

Tourism bosses were last night toasting a bumper Bank Holiday after tens of thousands shrugged off the weather and flocked to Norfolk.

Attractions told of record numbers and sell-out shows, while healthy advance bookings offered a glimmer of hope to the hard-pressed hospitality trade.

For years, many spent their money elsewhere as a double whammy of cheap foreign holidays and strong pound lured them abroad.

Now it seems the seaside has become cool again, as families rediscover Norfolk's coastline to escape the credit crunch.

Peter Jay, owner of Yarmouth's Hippodrome, said: 'We have had an Easter show on at the Hippodrome and it has been sold out every show. It has been absolutely fantastic. There have been lots of people about - a tremendous amount of people. I think it is a good sign that it is going to be a very good summer.

'We were in Spain recently and the prices of everything were noticeably expensive with the Euro being so bad. It has become cool again to go to the seaside.

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'I think it is coming back in fashion. It is a very British thing to do. People are going to the seaside again in this country, which is fabulous. It is cost effective and ticks all the boxes.'

Alan Carr, head of tourism at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said visitor numbers could have topped 10,000 over the bank holiday weekend.

'We have had a really busy weekend. On Friday and Saturday we had glorious sunshine. Yesterday it was a bit damp in the morning, but it brightened up by the early evening.

'Last Easter the weather was abysmal. This weekend has been a bit of a mixed bag, but that is fine. Generally we have had a very happy weekend. Yesterday we had queues outside the Sea Life Centre. The week leading up to Easter has been very good as well.'

At the other end of Norfolk's coastline Hunstanton was lashed by storms last Easter which sent visitors fleeing the prom. While the seas were calmer, the resort did not live up to its Sunny Hunny nickname for most of this weekend.

But Jason Law, West Norfolk council's portfolio holder for regeneration, said: 'We haven't seen a slow day over the weekend.

'I've been speaking to a couple of B and Bs and they're saying not only has this been a great weekend but their booking lists are full, so they've got a great year ahead.'

Pleasure boat skipper William Searle, who runs sea trips on the amphibious Wash Monster, said: 'I can't believe it, the weather's been freezing but we've been running all the time. Everyone's been very jovial, they've all been saying Norfolk's the in place.'

There were long delays on the A149 coast road, with tailbacks stretching almost from Hunstanton to King's Lynn as day visitors queued to return home.

Michael Timewell, director of Kelling Heath Holiday Park, in North Norfolk, said: 'We have had excellent bookings over Easter and bookings for the year are impressive for holiday caravans, woodland lodges and in particular touring and camping.

'The recession and weakness of the pound are just two of the reasons that are changing the consumers holiday taking intentions seeing them staying in the UK and in particular closer to home.

'There are an increasing number of visitors choosing the Norfolk coast and countryside as the ideal destination. We are blessed in Norfolk with a superb tourism product and it is great news that visitors old and new are going to experience and enjoy what Norfolk has to offer.'

Mark Noble from Pensthorpe Nature Reserve near Fakenham said: 'We had a record number of visitors coming to Pensthorpe. We had lots to offer everyone from pond dipping to our Wensum Discovery Tour and meeting our newborn lambs."

The grey cold weather may have been bad news for some, but it was a bonus for others.

Mid Norfolk Railway's Graham Moates said the grim weather on Sunday meant that they have a day which exceeded their expectations with many holiday makers coming for train rides instead of perhaps going to the beach.

"We have had a good Easter particularly on Easter Sunday because we were not on the coast," he said. "It is a very positive start to the year and comes on top of our biggest weekend event the other weekend, the diesel gala."

Jo Artherton, BeWILDerwood's communications co-ordinator said: 'Easter was a huge success. We had 'Swampy's Steady Spoon Dash', an event that challenged both children and the most daring of adults to complete a wobbly assault course while balancing an egg on a spoon.

"It is a fantastic start to the new season and we remain positive that this trend will carry on throughout the year.'