Tourism and Sport Minister Nigel Huddleston enjoyed a two-day visit to Suffolk on September 28-29 to see how businesses are recovering from the pandemic and planning for the future.
The MP visited some of Suffolk’s top attractions and destinations, beginning on Tuesday at the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket and then Bury St Edmunds. Earlier in the day he had toured Ely Cathedral.
After staying overnight in Ipswich, the Minister went to Southwold where he met Visit East of England chair Andy Wood OBE, Snape Maltings, home of the Aldeburgh Music Festival, the National Trust’s Sutton Hoo and then Suffolk Food Hall on the Shotley Peninsula.
Mr Wood said, ‘The visit was a great opportunity to talk to the Minister about the appetite we have here in the region to deliver a year-round sustainable visitor economy and provide more opportunities for people to have great careers in tourism and hospitality.
‘There are still challenges facing the sector but working collaboratively we can overcome them and grow tourism beyond pre-Covid levels. We know the job that needs to be done and the Minister was very supportive of our collective efforts and ambition, particularly working with local authorities, destination organisations and New Anglia LEP.’
Mr Huddleston said: ‘Many people have discovered UK holidays for the first time in many years because of the pandemic and difficulties with going abroad. They have found they offer really high-quality – and that is precisely what you have in Suffolk.’
He added, ‘It has been a good summer for our domestic tourism and hospitality sector and I will continue to do all I can to champion and support this important industry.’
At the National Horseracing Museum, the Minister tried his hand at racing on a simulator, overlooked by ex-jockey Frank Conlon.
Discover Newmarket manager Tracey Harding said: ‘Whilst it has of course been a challenging time for many of our tourism and hospitality businesses, the visit provided an opportunity to explain how resilient and innovative our businesses have been and how we are now working with them, along with Visit East of England and Visit Britain, to welcome back our domestic and international visitors.’
Pictured are (l to r) Cllr Andy Drummond, Cllr Rachel Hood, Director of the National Horseracing Museum Anne-Marie Hogan, Acting Chair of National Horseracing Museum Board of Trustees Frances Stanley, Nigel Huddleston MP, Manager of Discover Newmarket Tracey Harding and Regional Head of Racing, East Region and Clerk of the Course at Newmarket Racecourses Michael Prosser.
In Bury St Edmunds, the Minister was taken on a tour of the Abbey Gardens and ruins of the Benedictine Abbey of St Edmund, where he was told about the importance of the Abbey and St Edmund to the town and learn about the Abbey’s 1000th anniversary celebrations planned for 2022.
During his visit the Minister met (l to r) Abbey Gardens manager Martina Georgieva, Jo Churchill MP, Abbey 1000 Group chair Lizzy Ranzetta, Tour Guides chair Adrian Tindall and Bury St Edmunds and Beyond manager Sue Warren.
Ms Warren said, ‘The Minister’s visit provided a unique opportunity to tell him about the bumper summer visitor season we have enjoyed here in Bury St Edmunds and also the ongoing challenges still faced by our tourism businesses.’
In VisitEngland’s Annual Attractions Survey 2020, the 14-acre Gardens were listed as the fifth most visited free attraction in England welcoming some 1,021,048 visitors last year.
The Minister stayed at Gough Hotel’s Salthouse in Ipswich on Tuesday before travelling to another of the group’s properties Southwold Pier the next morning, where he met Fiona Bovill and Edward Harrison, along with East Coast District Council deputy leader Craig Rivett, who told the MP about the council’s joint bid with Great Yarmouth Borough Council to be City of Culture 2025, and Suffolk Coastal MP Thérèse Coffey.
Next stop was The Swan Hotel where the Minister met Adnams chief executive and VEE chairman Andy Wood, before having a tour of the Adnams Brewery and Copper House Distillery with production director Fergus Fitzgerald.
At Snape Maltings, Mr Huddleston was given a tour by chief executive Roger Wright CBE and then Sutton Hoo, where he met Jim Horsfield of Screen Suffolk to discuss the value of film production and film tourism and was given a guided tour of the attraction by National Trust’s general manager for east Suffolk Nick Collinson which included a trip to the top of the new 17 metre high view tower, part of a £4m project that includes new walking routes, displays and exhibitions.
The final stop on the Minister’s itinerary was The Suffolk Food Hall at Wherstead where he was given a tour of the facilities by director Oliver Paul.
Mr Paul said, ‘It was particularly pleasing to welcome the Minister during British Food Fortnight and to explain how the local indie food offering has been more adaptive during the Covid and the more recent fuel crises.’
Visit East of England executive director Pete Waters, who escorted the Minister on Wednesday, said, ‘It’s great that the Minister has come to Suffolk to see how well the visitor economy has bounced back from the pandemic and to see the region’s ambition to build back better.
‘The Government is well aware that, for the first time, all destination organisations, local authorities and New Anglia LEP are working together to help develop a year-round sustainable tourism offering, spreading demand seasonally and geographically, in order to create more wealth and full-time skilled jobs.’