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Big surge in Broads holiday bookings

PUBLISHED: 07:00 04 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:18 06 July 2010

A holiday cruiser on the River Bure near South Walsham.

A holiday cruiser on the River Bure near South Walsham.

Broads boating companies have been rolling back the years, reporting a seasonal surge in bookings of up to 35 per cent.

Scenes of busy rivers and crowded yacht stations, reminiscent of buoyant earlier times, have even created optimism that the hire boat industry could be set to expand again after years of contraction.

Broads boating companies have been rolling back the years, reporting a seasonal surge in bookings of up to 35 per cent.

Scenes of busy rivers and crowded yacht stations, reminiscent of buoyant earlier times, have even created optimism that the hire boat industry could be set to expand again after years of contraction.

The Broads Authority's head of tourism Bruce Hanson expects this season's new generation of “staycationers” to translate into a significant increase on last year's 7m visitors to the Broads.

Paul Greasley, managing director of Norfolk Broads Direct, which has bases in Wroxham and Potter Heigham, said: “Things are very positive. We are very busy and bookings for cruisers are 15pc up on last year. Thanks a lot to the good weather, day boat hire has done even better, up 30pc.

“We are always busy in August, but significantly, May was better than normal and we have very few vacancies for our cruisers or holiday cottages in September.”

He said his firm was already investing up to £500,000 a year on new luxury craft and this year's turnaround would encourage more widespread investment throughout the industry.

Greg Munford, general manager at Stalham-based Richardson's, said their cruiser bookings had increased 35pc this season with the help of the company's new online booking system.

He said: “We realised very early on this was going to be a key year to get everything right. Without a doubt, we have benefited from a large new customer base looking to holiday in this country.”

Mick Lawes, manager at Richardson's sister company Horizon Craft, at Acle, said he had been in the industry 44 years and, after years of decline, this season felt like a significant watershed.

He said: “A lot of new customers have told us they would normally have been going abroad. But they have all come back saying they have had a great time and already bookings for next year are very, very good.”

Langford Jillings, managing director of Alpha Craft, at Brundall, agreed that the Broads had benefited from an influx of new holidaymakers and said his bookings were good right through to October.

He is confident that the sales side of his business will also benefit from the turnaround in fortunes of fellow operators.

Mr Hanson said there had been a small but steady rise in Broads visitor numbers since 2005, but he expected a “significantly greater increase” this year.

He said: “As well as the economic situation leading to a greater number of 'staycationers', people are becoming more generally aware of all things green and increasingly looking for sustainable tourism destinations.

“The decline of the hire boat fleet has bottomed out in recent years and there are now signs that it will start to grow again, and that is very good news.”

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