Target of nearly 800 jobs

Jude Leitch of Northumberland Tourism with Sir Alan Beith MP and Sean Donkin of the Hog's Head.
Jude Leitch of Northumberland Tourism with Sir Alan Beith MP and Sean Donkin of the Hog's Head.

The county has set itself a very ambitious growth target for the tourist industry, aiming to create nearly 800 new full-time jobs by 2016.

Tourism is a key industry for Northumberland, which contributed about £706million to the county’s economy in 2011.

A target of six per cent growth to the visitor economy aims to bring in an additional £42million in visitor spend and create an extra 795 full-time jobs by 2016.

At a meeting of the county council’s economic scrutiny committee, Stacey Burlet, head of customer and cultural services, explained that the six per cent was chosen as an aspirational target in consultation with the wider tourist community.

“It’s about taking us to where we are generating higher visitor numbers than we are now and achieving numbers we did historically,” she added.

The county council has established a framework to facilitate this target, which includes providing financial support to a range of tourism and tourism-related organisations such as Kielder Water and Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland Tourism.

The council will also support the delivery of activities such as tourism fairs, contribute to projects like Northumberlandia, deliver a network of tourist information centres and support the delivery of regional activities such as the North East Tourism Awards.

At the centre of this is the rebirth of Northumberland Tourism, which has a much better working relationship with the council now.

Northumberland Tourism was hit very hard by the demise of One NorthEast, but has revamped its funding and board in recent months, with councillors praising in particular the previously-criticised website.

Moving forwards, it will focus on three key areas of work: marketing; product development and communication and engagement with the sector.

Chairman Kate Priestley said: “It’s challenging, but the board is focusing on plans to get that six per cent delivered.

“The culture of the sector is really different. They are helping us rather than demanding from us, because they know there’s not much public money.”