Norwich City chief executive David McNally throws down the gauntlet to Norfolk’s tourism businesses

Norwich City chief executive David McNally yesterday threw down the gauntlet to Norfolk's tourism businesses urging them to use the global recognition of the Premier League club to help them harness their potential and bring in thousands more visitors to the city and county.

With the Canaries riding high in football's top tier and inching towards a second season in the top flight, Mr McNally said there was never a better time for tourism businesses to join forces with the club to promote their brands.

Speaking at the launch of the EDP/Larking Gowen Tourism Business Survey, Mr McNally said premier league status had given the club access to a worldwide audience of 648m homes across in 210 countries from around the world.

Matchdays visitors to the club were more than 650,000 last year, but the club was also hosting 200,000 non-match day visitors in the off season including as an established venue for concerts.

And he said the club wanted to work with the tourism industry from restaurants to hotels to visitor attractions to tap into that.

'That's the reach, that's the big stats,' he said. 'I don't think we do enough to help you with these opportunities, so I'm saying come to us, we're happy to help you.

'But I also don't think that you do enough to make the most of these opportunities,' he added. 'It's a two-way street. This is a huge football club and as long as it remains in the Premier league it will always remain massive.'

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Ian Hacon, chief executive of Blue Sky Leisure, which runs the Kelling Heath holiday park and Zaks restaurant chain, backed the idea of tourism businesses working more closely with the club.

'We have worked creatively with the club in the past in terms of using their database for marketing initiatives and we have found that quite successful,' Mr Hacon said. 'I can see the link and a big percentage of the people who come to Kelling Heath are from Norfolk so there's definitely a benefit in working with Norwich City.

Alan Carr, head of tourism at Great Yarmouth Borough Council, said the town had definitely seen a surge in football fans opting to make a trip or stay in the town.

'You can see the scarves just when you are driving around,' he said. 'We are sure they are staying in Great Yarmouth. The potential is huge.'

Mr McNally's clarion call came as leading tourism firms from across Norfolk lobbied the county's MPs at Westminster yesterday as part of a joint bid to promote the benefits of the county as a visitor destination.

Representative from brands ranging from Hoseasons, Norfolk Broads Direct and Wroxham Barns were spelling out why the tourism industry was crucial for those who live and work in the Broads area as it seeks to make the most of the special status it has received from Visit England to secure international recognition as a leading holiday area.

Meanwhile a second delegation, which included New Anglia chairman Andy Wood, county councillors and Forestry Commission officials, lobbied on behalf of tourism businesses in the Brecks, which includes Thetford Forest. The delegation voiced fears that the area, which generates �213m to the local economy and supports 4,500 tourism jobs lacks a clear identity which is stifling growth and income generation.

South-Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss backed the Brecks campaign, and said we would work in tandem with neighbouring MPs George Freemand and Matthew Hancock to help.

'The area provides tremendous opportunity for the wider economy and job creation and I want to ensure that it receives the recognition it deserves,' she said. 'The Brecks Food festival, recreation and access to fabulous wildlife and bio-diversity need to be showcased to a wider audience. The dualling of the final section of the A11, improved signage, better train links and a greater presence on the web will all help to promote the Brecks as a destination in its own right.'