The old lifeboat house at Wells-next-the-Sea North Norfolk
What I am about to write about is a phenomenon that has affected not just North Norfolk. I am sure that other parts of the UK, where tourism forms a significant portion of the economy, will have noticed a marked increase in visitor numbers.
Norfolk’s tourism industry suffered severely during the pandemic, with many jobs lost, business closures and millions of pounds removed from the local economy. Post-pandemic, the recovery has been steady and is accelerating. It is true that UK tourist areas initially saw greater demand because people were wary of travelling abroad. That situation has changed, and more people are choosing to fly to where sunshine is guaranteed. However, COVID-19 and the psychological effects it caused among the population did change the attitudes of many individuals regarding where and how they choose to spend their holidays.
The realisation that a transmissible infection can suddenly appear and cause millions of deaths across the world acted as something of a wake-up call. People now value the important things in life as never before. They feel a greater need to find ways to enjoy life wherever and whenever they can.
So, how has this affected North Norfolk? The first and most noticeable change is traffic. There has been an exponential growth in the traffic volumes using North Norfolk’s roads. I have noticed that the car parks are often full by mid-morning during good weather in Cromer, where I live. The large car park at Runton Road has been at capacity on many occasions this summer – several hundred cars. That used to be the case only occasionally, even during the summer holiday season.
More cars mean more people, noticeable in the footfall in North Norfolk’s coastal towns. Sheringham and Cromer have had an extremely busy 2023, so the local traders have benefitted, as have those at Blakeney and Wells-next-the-Sea. Inland, Holt has had a bumper summer season.
This all begs the question, Is North Norfolk going to become another Cornwall? The area already has a high proportion of second homes, and property prices have been rising steadily for several years. Subsequently, there is an understandable outcry from locals who cannot find accommodation at affordable rates.
What does the future hold for this lovely part of the UK? Will it follow the pattern of places like St Ives in the southwest and Keswick in the Lakes, becoming overwhelmed by the number of people that want to come to and enjoy North Norfolk?