06:00 14 February 2022
Area attractions and businesses are keeping their fingers crossed for a busy semester after nearly two years of disruption amid the coronavirus pandemic.
And there is optimism that Norfolk can continue to reap the benefits of the staycation boom sparked by restrictions on overseas travel.
The February half, starting today (February 14), should provide a useful gauge of whether holidaymakers will choose to stay home or head back to warmer climes.
The rising cost of living has thrown another spanner in the works and may well deter people from leaving or taking day trips.
Local favorites and tourist hotspots, however, are preparing to welcome the crowds as people seek to make the most of the newfound freedom.
When it was allowed to open, the famous Great Yarmouth racecourse actually enjoyed a fruitful few years as families traded in the guarantee of Mediterranean sunshine for traditional British seaside resorts.
Peter Jay, who has owned and run the famous venue for more than four decades, revealed there was growing excitement ahead of a busy mid-term break.
The theater will host the Circus of Horrors Thursday through Saturday nights (February 17-19), with screenings of the kid-friendly Addams Family Show.
“We’re all set and bookings are looking great for the horror show,” Mr Jay said.
“We also already have Easter tickets on sale, and they’re selling well. The signs look good.”
He added: “Last year was the busiest ever because the town was packed. I think people came to Great Yarmouth because they couldn’t get to Spain, but they then realized it was an amazing place.
“Obviously there will be cuts this year on overseas travel, but I still think families will want to come here.
“Suddenly people rediscovered the British seaside. We had so many people who said they hadn’t been here for years, so in a way there was a silver lining to all of this.
“It’s a good time for Great Yarmouth because we have the waterways, the newly refurbished cinema, the new Marina Center opening this summer; things are gradually falling into place.”
In North Norfolk, the ‘mid-term fun’ at Wroxham Barns began over the weekend.
The award-winning attraction hosts Lambing Live, an event that sees the team take in 15 pregnant sheep as they prepare to give birth to a total of 26 lambs in the purpose-built Ewe’nit maternity ward.
Jack Stuttle, who manages catering at the barns, said the farm was already busy with visitors, many of whom were treated to a natural wonder.
“We’ve seen the turnout so far is really good,” Stuttle said.
“Even on Saturday there were people here to watch the lambing. We had a great weekend and now we’re looking forward to midterm week.
“With Covid, we introduced the pre-booking system last year. One trend we’ve noticed is people leaving quite late to pre-book, but our bookings for the coming week are looking pretty healthy.
“Other similar attractions across the country appear to be experiencing the same trend.”
The pandemic has obviously resulted in a difficult time for businesses in the hospitality sector, with repeated openings and closings in accordance with Covid rules.
For The Café at Urban Jungle in Ringland, near Taverham, the situation was no different.
During the lockdown, the former family restaurant made the difficult decision to downsize and operate as a cafe, serving tea and cakes instead of a full menu.
But manager Amelia Browne said business in recent days had been “extremely busy” – adding she was hoping for more of the same.
She said: “We have a lot of families here because all of our plants and big ponds make us quite an interesting place to come.
“We are very family oriented, so we tend to be a lot busier during semesters and school holidays.
“We are looking for staff at the minute to help us and we are content to be a cafe at the moment, but if things go well in the spring and summer, we may reassess and reopen our kitchen.”