Tourism industry now worth �1.75bn in Suffolk

THE value of tourism to the Suffolk economy has been reinforced by new figures which show the leisure industry is set to become even more important to the county in years ahead.

Figures from Choose Suffolk show the sector is worth �1.75billion a year to the county's economy – that is 8pc of the total economic activity with almost 12pc of the county's workforce being employed in the sector.

And tourism is growing at a huge rate – over the last year its value to the economy grew by 7.4pc and with the Olympics and Diamond Jubilee next year this is set to rise further.

The figures come as a national survey shows more than a third of British people will be taking their main holiday in this country in 2011.

Some 35pc of people – up 10pc on last year – plan to take a so-called 'staycation'.

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Hotel chain Travelodge, who conducted the survey, said one-third would be taking a seaside holiday in the UK, one in four would head to a city and 22pc will choose a rural setting.

The reasons given for taking a staycation by the 5,000 adults polled were unsurprising, with 38pc saying it was cheaper than going abroad and one in three wanting to avoid flying.

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Chief executive of Choose Suffolk, which promotes the county, Tim Passmore, was upbeat about the prospects of tourism leading the county out of recession.

He said: 'We know tourism is tremendously important for the county and these figures should just how much Suffolk relies on visitors.

'We are doing a great deal to promote the county with a considerable amount of success, but there is always more you can do and there are great opportunities for us in the future.'

Mr Passmore said what was important for the county's tourism was that it now had a wide offer for people wanting different things.

He said: 'We can appeal to people who want activity holidays like walking or cycling. There are great facilities for them in very different parts of the county. There is the heritage coast, but also very different landscapes in the Breckland area or along Constable Country.'

He said the criticism some people had that Suffolk was flat could be a bonus for others, adding: 'That's a real bonus for many cyclists. What we need to do is to promote more safe cycling routes where people don't worry about having to share them with heavy lorries.'

The statistics show almost 60pc of people who stay in Suffolk come for more than four nights – and this proportion is increasing.

That suggests more people are looking to the county for their main holiday of the year, not just as a short-break destination – although that market remains important, especially for the traditional hotel sector.

Mr Passmore said the employment opportunities provided by tourism should not be underestimated – 34,000 people are employed in the sector by 2,000 individual businesses.

He said: 'The tourism sector is able to provide some very good employment opportunities. It isn't just part-time bar work, there is a lot of leisure management.'

And Mr Passmore confirmed next year would be a huge opportunity for the county as the Olympics shines a spotlight on Britain.

Mr Passmore said: 'We are only an hour from the Olympic park, so it will be the ideal place for people to stay to reach the Games.

'Alternatively, it will be an ideal place for people to visit if they have come to the Olympics and want to escape out of the capital for a day or two.'

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