Since the Covid pandemic, it has been recommended as one of the best places to visit in the world by the New York Times, and it has been named among the most beautiful in Europe and even the world.
And now, the annual STEAM report on the economic impact of tourism in Northumberland has been released, showing that the value of the county’s tourist economy doubled in 2021 compared to 2020, with the value of the visitor economy being £858.95 million. Employment has also bounced back in that time, with a more than 60% recovery on those directly employed by tourism in the country since 2020.
The report also demonstrated a stronger recovery in spending than visitor numbers, driven by an increase in spending by staying visitors, indicating that more people stayed and spent more while visiting. As expected, the results continue to remain below that of records achieved in 2019 and the value of the visitor economy in 2021 was still 21% lower than in 2019.
Read more: “Our bills are going to be scary” – Northumberland tourism businesses react to the Government’s energy support package
Andrew Fox, chair of Visit Northumberland, said: “It has been a difficult few years for tourism and we are delighted that the dedication and determination from everyone involved within Northumberland’s tourism industry is driving the recovery. The results show an overall increase of 22% in the size of the visitor economy over the last ten years, but we still have some way to go to return to pre-pandemic record levels.
“Compared to 2020, proportionately more visitors are staying visits accounting for 19% of visits and 68% of spend. We are pleased to see the spike in day visitors which was seen in 2020 rescind with more visitors now choosing to stay in Northumberland.”
A visitor survey conducted by Visit Northumberland in the summer of 2021 provides further evidence of the changing composition of visitors. Other findings were that overall visitor satisfaction levels were high, with 100% of visitors saying they were made to feel welcome and 99% would recommend Northumberland as a place to visit.
And Visit Northumberland has also developed a new Destination Management Plan in collaboration with tourism industry leaders. It is hoped that this will help the economy to continue bouncing back to 2019 levels and beyond, aiming for sustainable management so that Northumberland remains a place both residents and visitors alike can enjoy and be proud of.
During the pandemic, grand funding from Northumberland County Council supported many businesses across the region, while marketing campaigns from Visit Northumberland aimed to encourage visitors to return to the county and discover its endless experiences. Other key findings from the STEAM research found the number of people directly employed in tourism stands at 11,179, a 61% recovery from 2020 with the return of 4,237 jobs.
However, that is still 15 percent lower than the 13,076 supported in 2019. The 2022 employment survey highlighted that recruitment was limiting the growth of operations.
Councilor Jeff Watson, portfolio holder for Healthy Lives at Northumberland County Council and chair of Advance Northumberland, said: “The improvements found in this year’s report are down to the hard work and dedication of everyone in Northumberland’s tourism industry. Our county boasts not only stunning coastline and green spaces but the friendliest and most hardworking individuals who strive to give visitors a warm welcome and a memorable visit.
“There are still improvements to be made to get back to pre-pandemic figures, but through partnership working and initiatives such as ‘Love it like it’s yours’ and ‘Discover Northumberland’ we’re dedicated to boosting our tourism industry.”
Have you taken a staycation in Northumberland since the Covid pandemic? Let us know!