`

Economic boost for Northumberland after visitor rise

Robson Green on Bamburgh beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle where he forages in the rock pools for seaweed and limpets. Picture courtesy of ITV
Robson Green on Bamburgh beach in the shadow of Bamburgh Castle where he forages in the rock pools for seaweed and limpets. Picture courtesy of ITV

New figures reveal that almost 10million people visited Northumberland in 2015, pumping £816million into the area’s economy – and tourism bosses believe this year’s figures can be even better.

Yesterday, Northumberland Tourism publicised statistics from STEAM – The Economic Impact Report, which analyses the impact that tourism has on the local economy.

And the figures for last year make happy reading, with visitor numbers, money spent in the county and the number of jobs in the industry all on the increase, compared to 2014.

The rise has been attributed to a number of factors, including the county’s rising profile on both television and film. As part of this, the next instalment in the multimillion-dollar Transformers film franchise is being filmed in Alnwick and Bamburgh this week, it is widely rumoured.

And to boost Northumberland’s fortunes further, people are encouraged to vote for the county to help it win a prize at the British Travel Awards.

The STEAM figures show that 9.5million people visited Northumberland in 2015; up by three per cent on 2014.

The number of overnight visitors stood at 1.7million – a rise of 2.8 per cent – while the amount of day visits was 7.8million, up 2.9 per cent.

The amount of money spent in the county rose by 5.5 per cent, while the number of industry jobs was more than 11,000.

Northumberland Tourism’s general manager Jude Leitch said: “We are really pleased with the figures. One of the most pleasing things is that the number of visits went up by three per cent and the economic impact rose by 5.5 per cent, standing at £816million. The figures also show that people are staying in the county for longer.”

And she told the Gazette that the hope is the 2016 figures will surpass the 2015 results. She said: “We are confident that they will be the same or increase a bit more.

“We did have a slow start to 2016 – it was quite a dull spring and the bad weather after Christmas did not help – but we have been told that over the last few months it has been really busy and lots of people have come to the area.”

Northumberland Tourism’s forthcoming PR drive will focus on the county’s stunning dark skies.

The marketing campaign – entitled Northumberland, the land that’s just as good with the lights off – will run from this October to February 2017.

Northumberland International Dark Sky Park covers 572 square miles and is the largest in Europe, with pristine skies. Jude believes this will help bolster 2016’s visitor numbers. She said: “On top of the summer period, we have the upcoming dark-sky season and we are gearing up for lots of people to come to Northumberland to experience this.”

As for the rise in 2015, Jude puts it down to a number of factors. She said: “It came on the back of the Tales from Northumberland programme with Robson Green, which was a wonderful advertisement for the county.

“There was also the Tour of Britain which came through Northumberland and there has been lots of hard work put in by everyone in the tourism industry, telling everybody they can about the great experiences people can have here in Northumberland.”

Northumberland Tourism has also published its return on investment for 2013 to 2015. The figures show that the organisation invested £705,122, influencing a visitor spend of £221.4million and during this period, 1,823 jobs were created in Northumberland’s tourism industry, while a further 2,321 were safeguarded.

○ Northumberland is currently in second place in the British Travel Awards – Best UK Holiday County/Destination category. To help it win, vote for the county before the September 30 deadline at visitnorthumberland.com/sharenland/vote