Northumberland’s tourism industry has exceeded its target to grow tourism by six per cent in three years, new figures have revealed.
From 2011 to 2014, the value of tourism to the local economy increased by 8.4 per cent, from £706million in 2011 to £765.1mllion in 2014 – well over the target of £749.2million.
Visitor numbers were 9.3million in 2014, a significant increase (+4.6 per cent) from 8.8million in 2013 and the highest level since 2009.
This increase resulted in an extra £17.4million being put th the local economy, with the economic impact of tourism in 2014 rising to £765.1million, which was an increase of 2.3 per cent on the year before.
Other figures also support the increase in popularity of Northumberland as a tourism destination. Attractions in the county reported an average 2.9 per cent increase in visitor numbers during 2014 compared to the previous year, with Tourist Information Centres also seeing an increase.
Visitnorthumberland.com received more than one-million unique visitors in 2014 for the first time, receiving the millionth visitor on Christmas Day. Demand for the printed 2014 Northumberland Holiday and Short Breaks Guide was so high that stocks ran out early, resulting in 20,000 extra copies of the 2015 Guide being printed to satisfy demand.
Jude Leitch, director of Northumberland Tourism, said: “It is fantastic to see that Northumberland’s tourism industry, which is the county’s second largest employer, has bounced back from the downturn and everyone’s hard work is paying off.
“The value of the tourism sector to Northumberland’s economy is growing and we will continue to market, support and encourage investment into tourism in Northumberland to ensure this trend continues.”
Award-winning destination management organisation Northumberland Tourism undertook three marketing campaigns in 2014. The Autumn Dark Skies campaign won Best Low Budget Campaign at the CIM Northern Awards and promoted the Northumberland International Dark Sky Park region. This campaign alone generated at least £349,410 of visitor spend, a return on investment of £30.76 for every £1 spent.
The Active Spirit and Taste of Northumberland campaigns, in conjunction with VisitEngland, promoted the county’s many activity opportunities and fantastic food and drink offer to a wider, national audience.
This marketing activity, coupled with Northumberland winning Silver in the Best UK Destination category of the British Travel Awards has helped raise the profile of the county as a holiday destination, aided by significant TV coverage in programmes such as Downton Abbey, Vera and Robson Green’s Tales From Northumberland.
Coun Val Tyler, Northumberland County Council cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture, said: “These are fantastic results and show once again the attraction the county has as a visitor destination.
“The figures are extremely positive, with more than nine million visitors last year bringing in more than £765million into Northumberland. Tourism remains one of our key economic drivers and the future is looking bright – demonstrated by our investment in the £12million Sill project – the new National Landscape Discovery Centre and our support of the Tour of Britain, a truly county-wide international event which will showcase everything Northumberland has to offer.”
Interim reports for 2015 show Northumberland is on track for another good year, supported by marketing campaigns, continued TV coverage and high-profile events including the upcoming Tour of Britain cycle race and the Poppies Weeping Window at Woodhorn Museum & Archives.