Council to unveil action plan to boost tourism after £400m hit

South Beach in Lowestoft.

South Beach in Lowestoft. - Credit: Mick Howes

An action plan to help east Suffolk's tourism industry bounce back from a £400m Covid-19 hit is set to be published this spring.  

East Suffolk Council has confirmed a draft of it's Visitor Economy Strategy 2022-26 will be ready next month and presented to cabinet this spring.

The authority says it has interviewed more than 300 businesses and stakeholders and held four workshops with industry figures to understand the challenges.

That will then inform an ambitious programme of recovery work, develop new tourist offerings to become a year-round industry, attract investment and maximise the district’s tourism selling points.

East Suffolk Council cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, Letitia Smith

East Suffolk Council cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, Letitia Smith - Credit: East Suffolk Council

Councillor Letitia Smith, East Suffolk Council’s cabinet member for communities, leisure and tourism, said: “Everyone will be acutely aware of the widespread impact of Covid-19 on the nation’s purse.

“Tourism has been an obvious casualty of the pandemic due to the restrictions on everyone’s movement.

“There have been short-term financial lifeline’s available to businesses affected by disruption to inbound and domestic travel, but the sector will still require support in the longer term, as the nation continues its recovery.

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“There is already much to be optimistic about, and I hope this strategy will set out our role in helping to accelerate the sector’s recovery, so we can build it back even stronger and more resilient.”

The industry was among those to be hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic over the last two years, as restrictions stymied opportunities for weeks and months at a time.

Figures in the Economic Impact of Tourism report published last August found that East Suffolk’s visitor economy lost £400m in 2021, with the value of tourism dropping from £695m to £297m.

However, industry chiefs are hopeful of a swift recovery in 2022.

The Suffolk Coast Destination Management Organisation (DMO) has reported a 60pc increase in website users compared to pre-Covid levels, while a £50,000 Unexplored England campaign runs until Easter to drive bookings.

Elsewhere, Lowestoft’s First Light Festival is due to return this summer, while businesses in key coastal resorts like Southwold and Aldeburgh are hopeful of a busy summer.

The DMO confirmed it had been a consultee on the recovery plan, and said it had been engaging with its businesses encouraging them to share their experience to “ensure the strategy works for businesses.”

More details are set to be unveiled this spring.