Key figure in tourism dies suddenly, aged 59

David Hunter
David Hunter

A key figure in tourism in the region, who helped establish the reputation of two of Northumberland’s finest country hotels, has died suddenly, aged 59.

A son of the North East, David Hunter was born in Hartlepool and grew up in Morpeth. He was educated at Oundle School, near Peterborough.

He met his wife Sue in London, while they were working for the same hotel. This led to 30 years in the hospitality industry in Britain, as he travelled the country in pursuit of his career. The Gleneagles Hotel in Scotland and the Grand Hotel in Eastbourne were among the UK’s foremost hotels that David worked for.

Like many of his fellow north countrymen, it was to this region that he eventually returned – to take up the role as general manager of Matfen Hall Hotel, which had recently become only the second country house hotel in Northumberland.

During his eight years there the hotel doubled in size, acquiring a spa, leisure centre, a golf course, and conference facilities.

Under his leadership, the hotel was first awarded Best Small Hotel in the UK, and then, when the new facilities were added, became Best Large Hotel in the UK. Perhaps the greatest testimony to David’s character, though, was the award of Most Considerate Hotel in England.

Such visionary success for the development of tourism in the area saw him also take on the role of a founding director of the Northumberland Tourism organisation. Passionate about the North East and the role of tourism in its development, David worked tirelessly to bring both business and leisure to the area.

David’s final work was to establish the reputation of a second newly-opened hotel – Doxford Hall.

Doxford had been recently opened and had acquired a new owner – Robert Parker – when David was appointed as general manager in 2010.

Mindful that national reputation depends on local roots, David set to support the local economy by ensuring that wherever possible local producers supplied the food, and local contractors the work, when it was required. Also part of the Doxford team, his wife Sue manages Guyzance Hall.

During the last two years, Doxford has also become home to Northumberland’s first music festival. This was a particular pleasure to David, who loved classical music. His other great interests were gardening and walking.

A great family man, he was devoted to Sue, his two children, Rebecca, 30, and James, 24, and his grandchild Corbin, four. His mother, Sheila, 88, still lives in Alnmouth.

Sadly, six years ago his sister Sally died at the age of 50, after suffering from cancer. His father Rodney died in 2008 at the age of 91. David’s own death was caused by a blood clot suffered as a consequence of a fall while on holiday.

David will not only be remembered for his achievements in the industry he loved, but also for the love and loyalty he inspired in those he knew, and worked with.