The impact of COVID on tourism in North Norfolk
Date published: 16th November 2021
North Norfolk District Council has recently received the latest Economic Impact of Tourism Report for North Norfolk.
This report, produced annually, provides a valuable insight into the value of tourism to the District and the number of visitors we receive each year.
In recent years, North Norfolk has continued to receive a steady rise in both the number and length of stay visitors make, historically contributing over £500 million to the District’s economy.
Unsurprisingly, however, the recent report (for 2020) indicates a drop in numbers across the board for all the indicators, reflecting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Some key local figures include:
- The total value of tourism is estimated to have dropped by 55%
- Day trips to North Norfolk fell by 56% compared to 2019
- And overnight trips fell by 53%
However, it is not believed that North Norfolk has been as severely impacted as other tourist destinations and North Norfolk has maintained low COVID levels relative to the national average throughout the pandemic.
Some national statistics include:
- Visit Britain estimates that spending by domestic tourism in Britain in 2020 reached £34bn (down 63% from 2019)
- The UK received 11.1m inbound visits in 2020, a 73% decline from 2019
- Inbound visitors spent 78% less in 2020 than 2019
It is hoped that the 2021 report (available next year) will reflect some bounce back from these figures as businesses started to recover. Generally, the hospitality sector has observed a significant uplift in bookings and turnover since they re-opened in the summer of 2021, with North Norfolk being ideally located for ‘staycations’, which became very popular in the absence of opportunities and desire to travel abroad.
Many local tourism businesses were supported during 2020 through the various COVID-related business grants operated by the Government, a total of which £126m has been distributed by North Norfolk District Council.
The Council’s success in delivering these schemes has been recognised by nominations for two prestigious national awards. On 28 September, in recognition of its exceptional performance in the issuing of COVID-19 business grants and support for North Norfolk’s businesses, NNDC won a Public Finance Award for ‘Digital Finance Project of the Year and received a Highly Commended commendation in the IRRV national awards
Despite this, the Council recognises that recovery of tourism markets during this autumn and winter remains fragile, with COVID-19 cases remaining nationally high. Therefore, the Council’s support remains ongoing.
The Council has recently launched its Business Recovery and Resilience Grant. The grant will support initiatives, projects and adaptions that businesses require to recover, sustain, diversify or grow. It will also consider applications from businesses who can demonstrate that they are still experiencing ongoing hardship as a result of the pandemic.
Cllr Richard Kershaw, NNDC’s Portfolio Holder for Sustainable Growth, commented: “NNDC have supported businesses through the pandemic and are aware how hard it has been for the tourism and hospitality sectors, hence our push to help develop these sectors for the future.
We have suffered less than other areas and have had a very busy season this year. We need to look to the future to continue this increase but in a sustainable way and help to supply labour to this growing sector by encouraging training in the hospitality field.”
Looking forward, the Council is keen to support local businesses as they strive to get back on their feet.
Throughout the pandemic NNDC has worked closely with Visit North Norfolk (VNN), the Destination Marketing Organisation that promotes North Norfolk and delivers marketing campaigns, and they played a vital role in communicating to their membership including providing COVID updates and signposting to support throughout the pandemic.
Recently, VNN have launched their latest marketing film for November and have prepared a December film (part of the North Norfolk Uncovered campaign) promoting winter breaks – Wild and Natural North Norfolk. This can found on the VNN home page, YouTube and the accompanying blog.
Kayla Dunne, Brand Manager at Visit North Norfolk, commented: “The report highlights the resilience north Norfolk businesses have shown while navigating through this incredibly challenging time. Government and North Norfolk District Council financial interventions were key to helping many businesses and we are aware there is still a way to go for many businesses to survive and grow.
However, the figures highlight the important role of the local visitor economy sector and employment. We are confident and remain supportive, that the industry will continue to come back stronger in 2022. Our marketing campaigns are key to ensuring that north Norfolk remains a popular destination for visitors looking for a ‘staycation’ and keep coming back in future years when overseas breaks recover.”
NNDC and VNN are also presently working with the College of West Anglia to develop a project that will bring prominent local tourism businesses into schools to help raise awareness of the industry and the potential professional career paths it could offer.