‘Massive’ season ahead predicted by Waveney tourism chiefs

WAVENEY is poised to reap the benefits of a 'bumper summer season' that promises to bring in tens of millions of pounds to the local economy, senior council and business leaders said this week.

As the Easter getaway starts in earnest today – marking the traditional start of the holiday season – tourist attractions, hotels and other businesses are gearing up for one of their busiest-ever summers.

A multi-million pound boost to the district's tourism industry is being forecast, with celebrations for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee taking place in towns and villages in June, the Olympic Torch Relay arriving in Waveney in early July, and the Tour of Britain cycle race rolling into North Suffolk in September.

Along with regular crowd-pullers such as the Lowestoft airshow in June and the Latitude Festival in July, the host of major events will make it a 'massive' summer for Waveney, according to tourism leaders.

With the launch of their first-ever joint holiday guide this year, Waveney and Suffolk Coastal Councils recently teamed up to promote the Suffolk coast as a key holiday destination in 2012. Across the two districts, tourism is now worth more than �500m to the local economy – with each area pulling in a combined total of about eight million visitors a year.

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Bruce Provan, Waveney District Council's portfolio holder for tourism, leisure and economic regeneration, told The Journal: 'We have some major events this year and all in all we're looking forward to a bumper summer season ahead.

'The call is for everyone to embrace what's available on their doorstep – all the facilities we have here – as it's a massive year ahead. We're hoping these big events attract people here and that they keep coming back.'

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Brochures have already been mailed out to potential visitors across the UK and – with so-called staycations proving increasingly popular – tourism chiefs have been buoyed by the excellent response to their 2012 Suffolk Coast guide.

Asa Morrison, Waveney's principal service manager for culture, tourism, sport and leisure, said: 'We had 25,000 holiday guides go out during January and February, which is a great start to the campaign.'

The drive to promote Waveney has once again focused on the district's coastline and countryside, with Lowestoft's two main beaches both earning coveted Blue Flags last summer and Southwold regaining its Blue Flag after a two-year break.

Big crowds are also expected at a host of major events including Thundercat powerboat racing in Lowestoft in June, the East Anglian Dragon Boat Festival in Oulton Broad next month, the new Folk East festival taking place at Somerleyton in August, and an ANZAC Day ceremony and parade in Southwold later this month.

Meanwhile, some of Waveney's major attractions have been investing in new facilities, including Pleasurewood Hills theme park, which has added new rides, Africa Alive adventure park in Kessingland, Southwold Pier and the East Anglian Transport Museum at Carlton Colville, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

Many other attractions are also opening to visitors for the new season this weekend, including Southwold Museum and the Lowestoft Maritime Museum – winner of Tourism in Suffolk's Best Small Attraction Award for 2011.

Alex Paul, general manager of Suffolk Secrets and Southwold Lettings based at Southwold water tower, looks after about 120 cottages in the area. He said bookings were already looking up on 12 months ago.

'I know the town's performing well because we're up 20pc on last year, which shows Southwold continues to be a hot spot in Suffolk,' he said. 'We've had customers coming back for years.

'Southwold is a traditional seaside town; You can come as a family to experience the beach or you can have good food in the town. 'We just continue to market ourselves by marketing Southwold.

'The Easter period provides a great indication as to how the year might pan out and we are looking strong at the moment, If people have a good experience in Easter time then they come back again.'

Lowestoft mayor Tod Sullivan launched his two-week Celebration of the Arts last Saturday with a competition that has led to a display of paintings being displayed in High Street. He said: 'We have a lovely event at the Stella Maris Church in Gordon Road at 7pm on April 13, as world renowned organist Martin Kasperek is coming over from Germany to specially play for the arts festival, with proceeds going to my charitable fund.'

He added: 'Lowestoft has so much to offer across the Easter period. I do hope people can take a good look around and enjoy one of the many activities. Easter traditionally kickstarts the tourist season, and with so much to offer let's hope Lowestoft benefits from the idea that UK destinations offer a great, cost effective way to take a break.'

Other events this weekend include Newcastle trolley bus days at the East Anglian Transport Museum today and tomorrow. It will have 1949- and 1950-built buses on display as well as its usual exhibits.

The Lowestoft Easter five-mile promenade dash hits the start-line at East Point Pavilion on Easter Sunday from 10am, while Easter egg hunts are being held on Sunday in Sparrow's Nest gardens in Lowestoft, courtesy of the town's Lions Club, and at the Maze at Somerleyton Hall and gardens.

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