Big Interview: Visit Norwich

Melanie Cook from VisitNorwich speaks to inNorfolk about English Tourism Week, Instagram and being a tourist where you live

“Microgapping is a campaign created by VisitEngland. It’s designed to speak to a millennial audience and engage them in experiences in England, rather than abroad.

It’s currently very easy to get a cheap flight and go away to another country, which is great. However, research has found that if millennials continue to travel abroad it poses problems for the future, because that’s where they’ll go when they have children. They will take their families back to the destinations they visited as children, on nostalgic trips. And if that’s not in England, then the next generation will miss out on all that England has to offer.

Read more: Microgapping in Norwich

Engaging experiences

‘Experience’ is real a buzzword in travel right now. That’s because social media allows you to talk about those experiences and share them with friends and family. So microgapping is about highlighting what can be enjoyed in England and sharing that online.

The microgap campaign has some core pillars. To qualify as a microgap, a break has to allow people to tick off some boxes, like a gap year. The pillars are:

  • Learning new skills
  • Embracing a challenge
  • Supporting a good cause
  • Ticking off items on your bucket list
  • Indulging in a passion
  • Discovering local flavours
  • Meeting new people
  • Improving wellbeing
  • Experiencing local culture.

Brands are now creating experiences as a result. Martin Rendell of Norfolk Outdoor Adventures is a great example. He now offers kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding on the Norfolk Broads. It’s something you’d expect to find abroad, but not in Norfolk. As a result, the business got mentioned in The Guardian, The Telegraph and on VisitEngland and he got lots of new bookings. In fact, his business has become so incredibly popular that he created a new experience – Stargazing Kayaking – which started before Christmas.

One of the beauties of VisitNorwich is that businesses can join us and we’ll help to promote them.

Part of the Instameet story is around businesses recognising that people want new experiences. Can you create a new experience as a business? Are you thinking about that in Norwich? There’s so much that can be done here. There’s culture, meeting new people, indulging in a passion – like photography, architecture and history – businesses can get on board with that.

Influencing influencers

This all ties in with English Tourism Week 2019. This annual initiative has been run by VisitEngland for a few years now. They spend the week talking about the country and building it up as a destination.

Read more: Be a tourist where you live

However there was a recognition that locals are there most of the year, during evenings and at weekends. How do we get them to see their local areas as a destination? The Instameet in March was all about encouraging local people to get out and visit new places and trying new things.

There was a recognition that locals are there most of the year, during evenings and at weekends

So, as part of the Microgap campaign, VisitEngland gave VisitNorwich a budget to create an experience for local influencers. There was a lot of work involved in working out what to offer and to whom because there was so much choice.

In the end, I came up with Norwich Cathedral, because most people don’t know you can do free tours there, or that you can visit the Library. After that, there was a walking tour with Paul Dickson. He’s so knowledgable and can tell you so much about Norwich.

The tour ended at Norwich Market, where there’s been an explosion of food stalls. However, most local people haven’t explored it. It’s funny really. If you were on holiday in Barcelona, you’d see that there was a local market and head there for lunch. But people don’t tend to do that in Norwich. We’re creatures of habit. We go to the same places. So we want to expand people’s horizons; we want to bring people to Norwich, but also speak to local people.

A holiday on your doorstep

We don’t just market Norwich as a destination, but as a gateway. If you booked one night in Norwich and had two days here, you can visit the countryside, the coast, the city and the Broads. It might be a squeeze, but there aren’t many counties that can boast that. So while Norwich isn’t on the way to anywhere, if you’re inspired enough to come here, you can do so much while you’re here.

You don’t have to travel very far to get great experiences. You could hire a boat on the Norfolk Broads very cheaply – just turn up and get one that morning, then spend a couple of hours enjoying the calm of the open water. You could then head back to the car, drive to Horsey and go to the beach for a walk. You’re only limited by your imagination.

You’re only limited by your imagination.

There are some beautiful hotels in the area too, so if you live here, you don’t have to go far to get a break. Whether you’re five minutes up the road or five hours away, you can experience something new – and it’s a real boost to the economy.

My own microgap

I’ve got children and I work in the city with interesting people, but I still come in at the weekend with no agenda. I might get a coffee and walk around town, taking in my surroundings. I love it.

My ideal morning would start at a cafe on Magdalen Street where I would have a coffee, before wandering around Aladdin’s Cave, having some Japanese food and then indulging in a glass of wine. I’ve honestly spent hours just in that part of town. And you can do the same in the Norwich Lanes. Or at The Sainsbury Centre. So many local people have never been there, but it’s free to visit the permanent exhibitions, to use the cafe and take some time out. It’s fabulous.”


Hi, I'm Lucy. I've lived in Norfolk since 2001 and in that time I've grown to love this fine county. From the city of Norwich, to the countryside villages and sweeping coastline, there's so much to explore and hope to share my experiences with you here.

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