Tourism Minister David Evennett visited Northumberland today to see how heritage and tourism are supporting growth in the county.
Mr Evennett, the Sport, Tourism and Heritage Minister, visited The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland National Park, to see the progress being made to construct the UK’s first national landscape discovery centre, and Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian's Wall.
He said: "With its stunning countryside and coastline, and unique historic buildings, Northumberland is one of the most beautiful places to visit in England. I am delighted to see many of the county’s important heritage sites are being brought back to life.
"Heritage and culture remains a huge draw for tourists from both home and abroad, and projects like The Sill and Auckland Castle (in County Durham) will help encourage even more people to stay in this wonderful part of the world."
The Minister also took a trip to Northumberland College's Hexham Centre to meet travel and tourism students and hear plans for Northumberland College’s Rural Tourism Academy. Attracting and keeping talented young people in the sector is one of the key parts of the Prime Minister’s Five Point Plan for tourism and the college offers a range of dedicated vocational tourism training and gives students access to Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens.
Mr Evennett met Marcus Clinton, the college's principal and chief executive, Sheena Towns, head of rural tourism, and MP for Hexham, Guy Opperman, and spoke to students about their studies and career ambitions.
Shelby Laws, 19, from Ashington, who studies HNC Travel and Tourism Management, said: "I explained that I progressed from Level 3 to higher education now, why I want to work in the tourism industry and how I participated in the Northumberland Ambassador scheme last year."
Charlie Miller, 16, from Alnwick, who studies Level 2 Travel and Tourism, said: "I talked about how I enjoy visiting new places and meeting new people, so why I'm hoping for a career as a holiday rep and looking forward to work experience at college."
The college offers a broad range of work experience to its travel and tourism students including visits to airlines, travel operators, tourist attractions and in 2013 developed a joint initiative with Northumberland County Council to offer students the chance to join the Northumberland Ambassador scheme. The initiative seeks to embed knowledge of Northumberland's major attractions as well as the county's hidden gems from castles and National Trust properties to the 4,500-year-old Duddo standing stones, plus Kirkharle and its links to Capability Brown.
Mr Evennett said: "We have a world-class tourism industry - it contributes almost £60billion to the UK economy every year and supports almost one in 10 jobs across the country. Helping even more young people forge exciting and lasting careers in tourism is a key part of our vision for the industry. We want to ensure tourism attracts the best and brightest to the sector and it has been a delight to visit Northumberland College’s Rural Tourism Academy and meet some of the future stars of the industry."