The big idea

PUBLISHED: 09:44 03 June 2013 | UPDATED: 09:44 03 June 2013

Andrew Hird, new chief executive at Woodland Holiday Park.

Andrew Hird, new chief executive at Woodland Holiday Park. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY


What is your background in Norfolk’s tourism industry?

I am the administrator of the Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association, a board member of Visit Norfolk and I am chief executive at Woodland Holiday Park in Trimingham. Before that I was director of Take One Media and we ran Leisure Target. I was born in Sheffield, but my family moved to Norfolk when I was 12, and I have been involved in tourism here since 1995.

What challenges is your industry facing?

People are not staying as long as they used to – the week-long holiday is being replaced by mid-week breaks and long weekends. Customers are booking later and later, and also demanding better and better from us all, but that doesn’t mean it has to be cheaper and cheaper. If you think of the traditional area that we would market Norfolk to, it would be the Midlands which is about two and a half hours’ drive away. But we need to realise that they are also just four hours away from Cornwall – so that is what we are competing with for their business.

What is Norfolk doing right in terms of tourism today?

In the areas in which I have been involved in tourism, I can certainly say that the product has been improved hugely in recent years. We have an amazing destination to offer – wide open beaches and skies, fascinating heritage, beautiful places for walking, a great coast and traditional seaside, and some of the best shopping in the UK in Norwich. We can supply a complete family holiday, with something for everyone of every age and interest, from the Pleasure Beach in Great Yarmouth to the Gooderstone Water Gardens, near Swaffham.

What could we do better?

We have such diversity but we don’t shout about it loudly enough to the right people. I think we live in really exciting times for Norfolk, I really do. We have a fantastic opportunity to really cement Norfolk as a brilliant destination. But it is about working together – as a holiday park I also need the attractions for my customers, and the attractions need me to provide them with more visitors. Tourism brings £2.8bn into the economy and it is a fantastic industry that we need to encourage more of our young people into; there is amazing satisfaction from enabling people to have a great time here in Norfolk.

So, Andrew, what is your big idea for taking Norfolk tourism to the next level?

I think it has to be us all recognising that we can no longer rely on the public sector to promote us. Businesses large and small need to engage through their destinational management organisation, such as the Great Yarmouth Tourist Authority, Visit Norwich and Visit North Norfolk Coast and Countryside. None of us can afford to do a massive poster campaign on London Underground by ourselves, but collaboratively our pound goes far further - and I would rather have a little bit of something I couldn’t otherwise afford than none of it. We are a powerful body but we need to become more dynamic. Norfolk as a world class tourist destination - that’s not a comment that is ridiculous.

Woodland Holiday Park in Trimingham, near Cromer, is owned by the Harrison family who farm the land around this small village next to the North Sea. They founded the park in 1972 and it has grown and developed ever since. Today the 68-acre site includes 300 static pitches and a range of beautifully appointed wooden lodges and cabins. Also on site are a shop, pool, clubhouse, tennis courts and a restaurant serving good quality meals made from locally-sourced produce.

Chief executive Andrew Hird comments: “The Harrison family have consistently invested in the park and are completely committed to it. We always remember that we are in business at the behest of the customer, and we listen and learn from them all the while. We have holiday standard accommodation and restaurant standard food, but it is important to realise that what we take for excellence this year will be the norm next year, so it is about always improving for our customers’ needs.”

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