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Pictures: Sunny days hotting up West tourism

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: July 12, 2013

  • Families enjoying the weather at Pittville Park, Cheltenham yesterday

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Businesses are gearing up for another busy weekend as the sun finally shines on the West Country's tourism industry.

After five years of dismal summers, non-stop sunshine has given the visitor trade a major boost.

Seaside towns reported a huge surge in numbers last weekend as people flocked to the coast to cool off.

Now hopes are high that the pattern will be repeated this weekend as forecasters predict the heatwave could last into August.

Research by the Somerset Tourism Association revealed top attractions in the county were on course for a good summer, even before last weekend's scorching temperatures.

Attractions such as Noah's Ark Zoo Farm, West Somerset Railway and Wookey Hole reported significant double digit growth compared to last year.

Somerset Tourism Association spokesman Bob Smart welcomed blue skies and temperatures of 28C after five dismal summers in a row.

"We don't have any figures yet but everybody is saying that trade is up," he said. "These days a few weeks of good weather is regarded as being pretty extraordinary and the kids are desperate to get to the seaside. At the moment people are heading to the coastal resorts, but it will also be good for the inland attractions.

"If this weather keeps up, it will make a substantial difference to the tourism trade."

Darren Fairchild, North Somerset Council seafront and events manager, said Weston-super-Mare had benefited from the heatwave.

"The car parks have been very busy and local traders have reported an upturn in business," he said. "Hoteliers are telling us that room bookings are up. It's not even the school holidays yet, but the seafront has been packed every day this week."

Weston-super-Mare's Grand Pier recorded its busiest ever Saturday last weekend.

Around 27,000 people visited the attraction, with 9,000 of them buying ice creams while they were there.

The pier's spokeswoman Liz Lewis said: "We have been really busy all week. A lot of schools have broken up already and there have been loads of school trips."

Portishead Open Air Pool are also preparing for another busy few days after more than 3,000 people visited for a dip last weekend.

Noah's Ark Zoo Farm at Wraxall said visitor numbers are up 22 per cent on last year and keepers are busy helping the animals keep cool.

Parrots are being sprayed with water, tigers are taking a dip in their pools and the rhinos are wallowing in mud.

Sammi Luxa, from the attraction, said: "We have even been giving fruit ice lollies to some of the animals, including the gibbons to help them keep cool."

The gibbons are not the only ones to enjoy ice treats – supermarkets across the West Country have seen sales of ice creams, barbecues, alcohol and paddling pools go through the roof.

As the schools break up for the summer, tourism businesses are hoping the warm temperatures will tempt families to stay in the UK.

Research by budget hotel chain Travelodge revealed two thirds of British people want to holiday at home this year.

Nick Brook-Sykes, chief executive of Bath Tourism Plus said: "Bath positively glows in the sunshine and when the weather is good, the streets come alive with entertainers.

"Long periods of good weather allows people to make plans to go away or arrange days out and Bath benefits from that, although if temperatures get too high, people tend to head to the seaside instead."

In Bristol, Jess Hellens, from the ss Great Britain, said: "Our visitors are enjoying more ice creams than usual. It feels like we're in the Mediterranean, being next to the Harbour."

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