Tourist centre visitor numbers buck the trend

THE number of people visiting tourist information centres in North Northumberland has increased this year despite the national economic downturn.

Between April and October, Alnwick Tourist Information Centre saw 113,512 visitors through its doors, a massive 40 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2010.

Craster Tourist Information Centre attracted 58,758 visitors, a 14 per cent rise on last year’s figures, while Wooler saw a 20 per cent increase and Seahouses a 4 per cent increase.

The increase has been put down to a number of factors. This year Wooler Tourist Information Centre moved into the ground floor of the Cheviot Centre in town making it more accessible to the public.

However the increase in visitors to the county in general does not reflect the same trend.

Giles Ingram, chief executive of Northumberland Tourism, said visitors figures were not unchanged from last year.

“We know from the work we have been doing with businesses that visits to the county have at best been static,” he said.

“For some there has been a slight decline by up to four per cent.

“Broadly speaking business has stayed the same.

“I think it is entirely down to the fact that toursit information centres have had a re-design and refit over the last year and a half.

“They have revitalised their offer to customers and they are a lot more enticing.

“And we are very pleased with that as Northumberland Tourism helped to secure the funding and participated in the design work for the council.

“It just goes to show that a bit of investment and vision you can realise potential.”

Discounted tickets to Alnwick Castle and Gardens and Bamburgh Castle from Alnwick tourist centre proved popular, while coastal resorts were a favourite with day visitors.

Coun Neil Bradbury, executive member for tourism at Northumberland County Council, said: “The tourism industry is of huge value to the local economy and is a great creator of employment.

“Our tourist information centres make a significant economic contribution to the local tourism industry by providing information that encourages visitors to stay longer, spend more money, experience more attractions and revisit a region.”