Weather could hit Easter tourism

A DISMAL mix of rain, wind and even sleet or snow showers looks set to cast a shadow over the earlier-than-usual Easter weekend and the start of the region's key tourism industry.

A DISMAL mix of rain, wind and even sleet or snow showers looks set to cast a shadow over the earlier-than-usual Easter weekend and the start of the region's key tourism industry.

But the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) is encouraging families to "stay local" this holiday time and tourism chiefs want people to get out and enjoy themselves - whatever the weather.

Last year Easter fell in early-April and holidaymakers and day trippers alike enjoyed glorious sunshine and high temperatures.

But despite this weekend's forecast, Michael Timewell, chairman of Norfolk Tourism, said yesterday: "I feel sure those who brave the elements will make the most of it and have a really good time.

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"Tourism is a 52-weeks-a-year industry in Norfolk and while it is really disappointing that we are faced with this awful weather there are still lots of thing to do in Norfolk."

EEDA wants people to reduce their carbon emissions and show their commitment to the region by staying in the east - and hope the bad weather will actually help towards that aim.

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Phil Garner, of UEA-based Weatherquest, said: "It is going to be a very cold Easter weekend with snow at times.

"Today will be cold and windy with showers which will be heavy at times and a little bit of sunshine. On Friday night some of the rain showers will turn to sleet and snow.

"Tomorrow the showers will continue with a keen north and north-east wind. From the afternoon through to Sunday morning there is a risk of a covering of 2cm-3cm of snow.

"On Sunday there will be further showers, mainly rain and sleet in the day, turning to snow later on, and on Monday there will be wintry showers and a sharp northerly wind but with a little bit of sunshine."

Easter is a prime time for tourism - which is worth some £2billion a year to Norfolk alone and employs about 55,000 people in the county - and for many businesses it marks the beginning of what should be the busy season.

Last night the industry was refusing to let the weather dampen its spirits.

Clare Packer from VisitNorwich said: "We are confident the Norwich area will remain as busy as ever. A lot of attractions have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities so if the bad weather sets in, visitors can still be accommodated.

"Shopping is top of the list for many and The Mall Norwich and Chapelfield shopping centre are the ideal places to stay warm and dry. The Norwich area also has a wealth of fabulous cafes, pubs and restaurants."

At Norwich Castle Rachel Kirk was hoping the soggy weather would draw in the crowds and Ian Williams was looking forward to launching his new tourist train in the city today.

"The weather is a shame but that's the British weather for you. Our train has a roof on it so people will be well-protected and even if it is wet there are still a lot of places to explore in the city," he said.

Mr Williams' hop-on hop-off Discover Norwich tourist train will connect Dragon Hall, the Cathedral, Elm Hill, Bishopgate and the Forum with a guided tour along the way everyday from today.

In Yarmouth Graham Plant, the borough council's cabinet member for tourism, said: "I don't think the beach is going to be busy but we have got lots of indoor attractions and there will be plenty going on."

Albert Jones, boss of Yarmouth's Pleasure Beach, added: "Our message to people is to put on an extra layer of clothing and prepare for the cold weather. We are going to be here and the rest of Yarmouth is open."

On the Sandringham estate, which opens to the public tomorrow, Helen Walch, said: "If people have decided to come out then they will make the best of it, but the difficulty is in persuading them to come out in the first place.

"They may decide to stay at home, but I really hope they don't when we have so much to offer."

Paul Searle, managing director of Searles Leisure Resort, Hunstanton, said this Easter was going to be difficult in comparison to last year when there was a mini heatwave, but added that his touring park had sold out.

In Cromer Ian Hall, general manager of the pier, said: "We are still gearing up everything. We are not reducing what we have on offer. We will have customers whatever."

While Karl Read, manager of leisure and cultural services at North Norfolk District Council, said: "Our indoor activities gain from poor weather while we lose at outdoor activities. It swings in roundabouts."

Ian Russell, director of Wroxham Barns, described his business as an all-weather attraction and said he was optimistic about the season as a whole.

But Barbara Greasley, director of boat hire business Broads Tours, said some planned tours may not go ahead.

"We've got lots of planned tours which in the high winds cannot go ahead. We hope that people will make the most of it and come back to us again. The weather is the one thing you cannot plan for," she said.

At Pensthorpe nature reserve Mark Noble said: "February was a record month for us, and speaking to other tourist attractions and bed and breakfasts it was for them too. Fingers crossed it will carry on.

"We've got a lot on for families, like Easter egg hunts and commentated bird feedings. But we are an outdoor centre and if the weather doesn't hold then some people won't come. Others however are really prepared and come what may."

Banham Zoo celebrates its 40th birthday tomorrow and a spokesman said the zoo was staying positive for the weekend.

At Go Ape high wire forest adventure centre, in Thetford Forest, manager Mark Robinson, manager said the centre was already 95pc fully booked for the Easter holiday period and would be open all weather unless there were winds over 40mph.

"We expect to be very busy. Visitors know what the weather will be and will come with their umbrellas and wet weather gear."

In Southwold, pier owner Stephen Bournes said: "I think we'll still be busy, we have high winds and high tides on Friday and Saturday but it will get busier again on Sunday and Monday."

Meanwhile, Francis Guildea, manager of The Swan and The Crown hotels in Southwold, said: "The great thing about Southwold is that it's not weather reliant. There's an eclectic mix of things going on, you can go to the pier, go shopping or go to the pub. We are looking towards the weekend with excitement."

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