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Visit Britain chief executive Sally Balcombe sends strong message to East of England tourism businesses

The boss of Britain’s tourist authority has said that the East of England is in a great position to benefit from overseas visitors after Brexit.

VisitBritain chief executive Sally Balcombe, on a fact-finding visit to the region, said that the East of England has the opportunity to become ‘a little less undiscovered’.

‘The region does tourism very well – it is worth more than £10bn a year and employs over 200,000 people – but there is always more to do. Compared to other parts of Britain, international visitors don’t know East Anglia as well and I would like them to get to know this part of the country,’ she said. ‘I go to Aldeburgh every year on holiday, so I come into the region and I love it.’

‘We want the East of England to become a little less undiscovered. You have many elements of quintessential England, but you’re not as well-known as other areas. One of the reasons I am here is to talk to people in East Anglia about how we achieve that. You do it well but how do we help you grow it and do it even better,’ she added.

‘Post-Brexit, we have to make Europeans feel welcome. It’s really important that whatever happens going forward, whatever our future is going to be, we are still next door to Europe, they are still our biggest single group of visitors in the world, we are still friends, we are still part of Europe.’

‘The East of England has daily direct ferries from the Continent and excellent airport connections, so you’re in a good position to take advantage. It’s important that the Dutch, the Germans and others, still want to come and making them feel welcome is really important. People want to go somewhere where they feel at home, they feel part of the family. We must keep that going.’

With close historical connections, Ms Balcombe said that the region also had the opportunity to attract more north Americans.

Sally Balcombe at Norwich Cathedral

VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe beside the helter skelter with (left) the Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, and (centre) the Revd Dr Peter Doll, Canon Librarian and Vice-Dean.

Visit East of England chairman Andy Wood OBE said, ‘It was great to welcome Sally to the region and for us to better understand the opportunities we have of working with Visit Britain to develop and grow the visitor economy. With Sally’s advice we hope to submit a strong bid to become a Tourism Zone as part of the Government’s recently-announced Sector Deal.’

During her visit Ms Balcombe was given a tour of Adnams’ Brewery and Distillery by head brewer Fergus Fitzgerald and visited the 55ft high helter skelter at Norwich Cathedral, part of the Seeing It Differently project.

‘I think the helter skelter is a rather joyful thing actually. We should celebrate trying something new and novel. Be respectful that this is a cathedral – but it’s attracting people in, they are enjoying it and enjoying the cathedral, so let’s try things and celebrate the new,’ she said.

The Revd Canon Andy Bryant, Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care, said: ‘It was wonderful to welcome Sally to Norwich Cathedral, not only to celebrate the success of Seeing it Differently but also to discuss the role of Cathedrals in attracting visitors to Britain. At Norwich Cathedral we very much want to play our part in showcasing all that both Norwich and Norfolk have to offer in this beautiful part of the country.’

New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership chief executive Chris Starkie said: ‘It’s great that Sally has been to the East to see for herself the enthusiasm and commitment we have for growing the visitor economy and to experience the superb offering we have here. Having her advice can lead us to make a compelling bid for a Tourism Zone in the region.’

Sally Balcombe visits Norwich Cathedral

VisitBritain Chief Executive Sally Balcombe admires the helter skelter with (left) Visit East of England executive director Pete Waters and (right) the Revd Dr Peter Doll, Canon Librarian and Vice-Dean.