Brexit brings mixed prospects for East Anglia tourism

East Anglia tourism bosses believe that Brexit will boost the staycation trend – but many also fear that leaving the European Union will hit the UK economy.

The findings come from the Tourism and Leisure Business Survey, co-ordinated by accountancy firm Larking Gowen and completed by 331 tourism businesses in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex.

The survey found that 73% of businesses believe Brexit will encourage more UK residents to holiday at home – but 43% worry about the long-term future of the post-Brexit economy.

The chance of losing EU workers, combined with a lack of skilled labour in the UK to replace them, could put paid to steady turnover growth in the sector, now worth £10 billion a year in the region.

One in 10 businesses said they were worried about a potential reduction in overseas staff caused by Brexit, while the same percentage believed a lack of skilled UK workers would leave them unable to fill the gaps.

The survey also found that three-quarters (77%) do not think central government is doing enough to support the industry.

More than two-thirds (68%) said their businesses saw turnover increase last year, and a similar amount (66%) anticipate turnover will rise again in 2017.

Chris Scargill, Larking Gowen’s tourism partner, said: “This is great news for the sector. We have heard anecdotally throughout last year how some businesses have done well but these statistics highlight how as a collective the sector has benefited.

“It is also pleasing to see higher turnover is converting to increased profits for 56% of businesses in 2016, while 57% are forecasting improved profits in 2017.

“Profits are the security of the future and enables businesses to invest in developing their businesses.”

Other challenges last year included the introduction of the National Living Wage, and 40% of businesses reported a negative impact on their business.

Scargill commented: “Nobody I speak to has a desire to undervalue the contribution of their staff but they see the rise taking place too quickly for their customers to accept.”

Growth opportunities included improving facilities for disabled people and identifying marketing opportunities, with 88% of companies not targeting their marketing towards disabled or impaired people.

Pictured: Norfolk Broads. ©VisitBritain/Rod Edwards