Indian summer leads to boom in tourism

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TOURIST attractions are experiencing a late boom, thanks to the unseasonably hot weather, following a wash-out summer.

Attractions including Bodiam Castle, Merriments Gardens in Hurst Green and Bateman’s in Burwash, are all reporting a large rise in visitor numbers, as the mercury continues to climb.

George Bailey, property manager at the National Trust-owned Bodiam Castle, said Trust members had supported the attraction, but the unpredictable weather put some visitors off pre-planned events.

Mr Bailey said: “We are about on budget, but some of our paid for events were not so well attended.”

Amongst the events hit was the castle’s first ever outdoor movie screening weekend, with advance ticket sales lower than hoped for.

But an Indian summer could make up for summer slump, according to Mr Bailey.

He said: “The staff were saying that we are ahead of where we expected to be last week, so hopefully we can make up for what we lost during the summer.”

With temperatures predicted to hit 26 degrees over the weekend, there are high hopes for the castle’s Birds of Prey Weekend, which kicks off tomorrow.

The management at Merriments Gardens in Hurst Green also hope to make up for a poor summer before the attraction closes for the winter on October 16.

Taryn Murrells, office manager, said: “We have a lot of coaches booked in, so they have still been coming.

“But I would say business is definitely down because of the weather.”

Ms Murrells says visitor numbers are up compared to a normal September.

She said: “We have been busy through last weekend and this week.

“We have got a licensed restaurant here as well as the gardens, so it’s been busy in the restaurant over the weekend.”

Meanwhile there is nothing but positive news from Bateman’s at Burwash, the former home of Rudyard Kipling.

Property manager Eileen Francis-Truett said this year has been the best ever with 90,000 visitors predicted by the end of 2011.

Last week visitor numbers were up by 24 per cent compared to the same week in 2010.

Ms Francis-Truett said: “The total visitors we have had up to the end of August was 72,597.

“That’s 6,400 more than the previous year.

“The vast majority of that increase was within our members visitors, who have really rallied round and supported us.”

Kevin Boorman, manager of 1066 Country Marking, is buoyant, and says some attractions have seen as much as a 10 per cent rise in visitor numbers.

Mr Boorman said: “The indications are is that this year has been a good year for visitors.

“Several attractions reported the best ever start to the season and then the weather turned. But we are getting indications that September is going to be very good.”

Following an aggressive marketing campaign on the continent, Mr Boorman added that there had been a rise in European visitors, especially from Belgium and Holland, along with an unexpected rise in Japanese tourists visiting 1066 Country.