Results of Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey 2023 revealed
Leading East Anglian accountancy firm, Larking Gowen, has released the results of its Tourism Business Survey 2023 at an event attended by sector leaders, at Applewood Hall in Norfolk.
Guests at the event were presented with the survey results, and heard from a number of speakers, including Andy Wood, Chief Executive of Adnams, Claudia Roberts, CEO of the Zoological Society of East Anglia, Valerie Watson Brown, from the VENI Partnership, and Hilary Horton, Director of Enspirita. There were also presentations from a team of experts at Larking Gowen, as well as a panel discussion, which included Mary Sparrow, from Hippersons Boatyard in Beccles.
The survey, which has been running since 2006, with a three-year break during the pandemic, canvassed opinions from 140 firms.
It showed that 59% of businesses in the region reported that turnover was more or substantially more in 2022 than in 2021. 24% said it was the same. Profits were less robust, with only 50% saying they were greater in 2022 than in 2021, and just over a third saying profits had fallen.
There is a real belief that the sector in the East of England will perform well despite the cost of living crisis affecting them, their staff and most importantly their customers. For 2023, 41% of respondents said turnover would be more or substantially more than in 2022, with 35% predicting it would remain the same. However, the bottom line would be affected, with only 27% saying profits would increase in 2023 but with, a not insignificant, 45% saying they would fall.
The survey also asked about the levels of support businesses felt they were getting from national and local government and Destination Management Organisations (DMOs).
64% of respondents said central government was not providing enough support, while 59% said local government was not providing enough support. 64% of all the businesses questioned said they were engaged with a DMO and/or tourism group.
Chris Scargill, Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Partner at Larking Gowen, said: "Destination Management Organisations and the bodies that support them have helped many businesses during this tough period. I would call on these organisations to be given the support of our tourism businesses and local authorities in return, for the benefit of all."
During his presentation, Andy Wood called on local authorities in Suffolk and Norfolk to get behind a government initiative to boost tourism in the region.
He said that the two counties should seize the opportunity on offer to be part of a Local Visitor Economic Partnership, with the potential to help attract central government funding and other support into the region. The LVEP would work closely with Destination Management Organisations which already offer a wide range of support to local tourism businesses.
Earlier this month, 12 new LVEPs were announced throughout England, following a pilot scheme launched last year which saw 3 LVEPs created as part of the North East of England Destination Development Partnership. Norfolk and Suffolk were not included in this latest round.
"Pre-pandemic figures for the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry in Norfolk and Suffolk showed it to be worth around £5.6bn and employing more than 10,000 people. It is one of the things that keeps the economy moving in the region. We've got it all in terms of places to visit, attractions, festivals, world class exhibitions, food and drink," Andy Wood said.
A Norfolk and Suffolk LVEP would help grow the visitor economy by giving businesses access to expert advice and training programmes in areas ranging from distribution, accessibility and sustainability, business support and marketing. It would also provide support to highlight government funding streams and help with bids.
Mr Wood said in recent years the tourism sector had been hit by "the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: austerity, Brexit, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis."
Larking Gowen has produced a brochure summary of this year's survey results with special focus articles on sustainability, investment and growth, marketing, consumer trends and staffing.
Chris Scargill said: "We're grateful to all our speakers and everyone else who attended to help make this such a successful event. Despite the many challenges, the tourism sector in East Anglia is robust, confident and as full of ideas as ever. We look forward to seeing it grow from strength to strength."
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