Holiday firm plots a course for town visits

David Taylor in Alnwick Town Centre
David Taylor in Alnwick Town Centre

Local businesses could see a boost to tourist trade after a leading tour operator agreed to market trips to north Northumberland.

Morrison Tours, which runs coach excursions for guests on cruise ships visiting the Port of Tyne, is to add a trip to its range that would visit places such as Alnwick, Warkworth and Belsay.

Similar tours currently visit the Alnwick Garden and Castle, but visitors tend not to explore the town or venture further afield.

And business leaders hope that a new route could be a big boost to local trade.

Morrison Tours director Peter Schuller visited Alnwick earlier in the year to meet with local business leaders including members of the Alnwick Chamber of Trade (Act), which spotted the opportunity after the Port of Tyne reported record cruise traffic this year.

Act vice-chairman David Taylor said: “We’ve had positive support from people for what we’re trying to do.

“The town benefits from the fact that the castle and garden are there, but we do need our own identity for the town centre, to promote the businesses in the town centre.

“And that’s why we would prefer the tours to be set up in such a way that they visit venues other than the castle and garden.

“We would like them to include other venues so people can see those venues and come and do their shopping and eating in the town.”

Morrison Tours, which serves more than 20 international cruise operators, will now market a north Northumberland tour to its clients at trade fairs around the world.

Mr Schuller said: “We feel there is plenty of scope to take passengers to places like Alnwick that haven’t benefited from cruise passengers in the past.

“Certainly historic towns and heritage are big sellers with cruise passengers and Alnwick is a particularly quaint medieval town.

“I think it’s got great potential, not just for cruise passengers but for tourism in general.”

But he stressed that the marketing process was a long one, and that expectations should not be raised too high.

Any benefit would not be felt until 2013 or 2014, after big cruise operators have finalised their schedules.

“At the moment there are no guarantees,” he said.

He added that local infrastructure, such as coach drop-off points, toilets, signage and information boards, need to be improved to make the area a more attractive prospect for travel operators.

“There are infrastructural changes that would allow Alnwick to appeal more to tourists, and to cruise passengers in particular,” he said.

Mr Taylor said that Act would be putting pressure on Northumberland County Council to make sure any necessary improvements are carried out.