It is just over two years now since One NorthEast took over responsibility for tourism in North East England. Our coast and countryside, history and heritage, city culture and of course the famous North East welcome are all reasons to visit the North East but they are also worth £3.4bn to an industry that employs over 56,000 people in the region.
Louise Davis is One NorthEast's Head of Tourism and says it is in this context that the regional development agency's efforts to attract more domestic and overseas visitors should be understood: "The impact of investment in the visitor economy isn't always easy to measure.
The Sage Gateshead, for example, employs around 200 people but then you have to take into account the increased revenue generated by more visitors coming to the region to enjoy the programme offered by The Sage Gateshead and the variety of spending created.Then add to this the fact that having a £70m music centre on the banks of the Tyne in a vibrant city centre location helps the area attract new private investment.
"There is a growing understanding of the significance that attractions like Hadrian's Wall or Beamish have not just to tourism but in promoting the region's image as a place to visit and to live and to work in."
To build a stronger tourism sector, by coordinating investment strategically, a lot of work has gone into the creation of the Tourism Network North East, comprising One NorthEast Tourism and four sub-regional Area Tourism Partnerships (ATPs): Northumberland Tourism, County Durham Tourism, Visit Tees Valley and Tourism Tyne and Wear. North East England is the only region to have such an integrated approach.
The ATPs will become the main point of contact for advice, guidance and support for all tourism businesses in each sub-region. The Network aims to make it easier for tourism businesses to access research, training, business advice and marketing opportunities as well as the chance to influence tourism development and marketing both regionally and locally. The network will also support local authorities to deliver their priorities for the visitor economy.
Louise explains: "The ATPs are a vital part of the region's tourism delivery structure, giving businesses a real say in the decisions affecting them and providing local access to the training, support and investment provided in the region. Their board members include private sector representatives from some of the region's major attractions, small and large accommodation owners as well as restaurant owners and other key tourism businesses."
On a regional level, One NorthEast Tourism will continue to be responsible for marketing the region as a whole and investing in support infrastructure such as the "Desti.ne" e-business platform.
Desti.ne will provide a single tourism database for the region meaning an attraction can change their opening times, or an accommodation provider can alter their prices online and their information will be automatically updated not only at www.visitnortheastengland.com but also in all the region's tourism information centres and on the national visitbritain website as well as any other organisation using the Desti.ne system, making the information immediately available to potential visitors.
Desti.ne will also provide attractions, event organisers and accommodation providers with cost effective access to e-commerce. Desti.ne Frontdesk is an online booking system similar to those used by larger hotel chains. It will help tourism businesses reach visitors across the globe, making it affordable for even the smallest tourism businesses to access international markets and sales channels, provided by other tourism portals.
Investment in the visitor economy hasn't only been online, there has been over £100m public and private sector money spent on tourism infrastructure in the last couple of years alone. One NorthEast has invested in The Sage Gateshead, the £16m Woodhorn museum that recently opened its doors providing another world class visitor attraction in Northumberland while MIMA, Middlesbrough's Institute of Modern Art which will open early next year, will rival Baltic as an international art gallery of the highest calibre. Elsewhere, our involvement in Durham City Vision will ensure the city makes the most of its appeal to visitors and builds on its existing strengths into the future.
The regional development agency recently funded the production of Durham Castle and Cathedral's World Heritage Site Management which is a crucial element to ensure the site retains its UNESCO status. The agency also funded the planned World Heritage site bid by the twin Anglo-Saxon monastery site of Wearmouth-Jarrow that looks like being successful in 2009 after winning backing from the UK Government.
One NorthEast, together with the North West Development Agency, English Heritage and the Countryside Agency, have established Hadrian's Wall Heritage a non-charitable not-for-profit company limited by guarantee to realise the economic, social and cultural regeneration potential of the World Heritage Site and its surrounding area.
Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd will provide a single point of focus for all capital investment projects and work with partners to promote the Wall and encourage more people to visit the Hadrian's Wall Area.
One NorthEast have also played a key role in supporting events like the Seve Trophy in the Tees Valley which generated £1.8m for the regional economy and the Tall Ships race in 2005 that will return to the region when Hartlepool hosts the race in 2010.
One of the key challenges for One NorthEast since taking over responsibility for tourism has been to raise the quality of the tourism product in North East England.
Last year over 2000 people working for tourism business across North East England received training through the Welcome to Excellence programme providing front-line employees, managers, volunteers working in tourism with the skills they need to provide first rate customer care for visitors to the region.
The North East England Tourism Awards have provided a platform for celebrating the best of the region's tourism industry. This year's winners include The Old School Quality B&B in Northumberland, Malmaison in NewcastleGateshead and Teesdale Farmers Market in Barnard Castle who will go on to represent the region at the National Enjoy England awards for Excellence. They have a lot to live up to - last year the region won recognition in a record five categories while Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa recently became the first in the region to be awarded five stars.
Louise Davis says: "If, as a region, we are to compete with low cost, package holidays we have to be able to offer value and a high quality experience. The standard of accommodation, attractions and the overall impression of the region has to be good enough that people not only return but tell their family and friends to come back as well."
The most public aspect of One NorthEast's support for the visitor economy has been the success of `Passionate People. Passionate Places' campaign aimed at improving awareness and understanding of the region.
The `Passionate People. Passionate Places' campaign is designed to promote the region not only as a visitor destination but also to potential inward investors who are considering the region as a location to set up new businesses.
One NorthEast also produces a wide range of more targeted tourism marketing campaigns aimed directly at potential visitors to the region.
The 2005 North East England holiday and short breaks guide generated £25m worth of business for the region with this year's guide expected to be even more successful.
The main guide will be supported by themed campaigns such as Walking, Cycling and Gardens, whilst seasonal activity such as the Autumn/ Winter campaign is designed to generate visits during the low season, moving us towards the strategic objective to extend the traditional visitor season.
The international tourism team has built up a database that now includes over 2,000 contacts throughout Europe and they will be represented at travel conferences in the region's key markets - Norway, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands - over the coming months as they look to build the region's profile abroad.
International visitor numbers grew by 6% last year while visitors to the www.visitnortheastengland.co.uk website have increased by 47% since January 2006.
The international marketing team promoted the region at a number of key tourism exhibitions, with exceptional increases in the key markets of the Netherlands, Germany and Norway.
North East England's visitor economy has seen a huge amount of progress in the last two years but there is still more in the pipeline.
The recently launched Cruise Tourism Action Plan will build on the region's success in attracting the lucrative cruise market.
The number of cruise passengers coming into the Port of Tyne rose by over a third last year and by strengthening the regional offer we will look to capture more of the $15bn global market benefiting not only our ports and harbours but also providing huge opportunities for our major attractions.
The Coastal Framework will provide a focus for investment by One NorthEast and other partners in the development of the region's coastal tourism product and help encourage more attractions like Salthome International Nature Reserve that has just received over £2m from the Agency to establish a significant attraction in the Tees Valley.
Projects like the Cruise Tourism Action Plan and the Coastal Framework will help drive future investment that will ensure the region's visitor economy continues to grow, attracting more visitors, bringing more investment into the region creating more jobs, creating and growing new businesses for North East England and ultimately contributing to the economic health of the region.
Page 2: A team that's making it happen
A team that's making it happen
Tourism Network NorthEast comprises One NorthEast Tourism and the four Area Tourism Partnerships (ATPS). Over time it is anticipated that the ATPs will become the main port of call for advice, guidance and support from the network for all tourism businesses in the region.
Although independent, the five organisations will work extremely closely through the Network Management Group involving the Head of Tourism and Head of Marketing from One NorthEast and the four Chief Executives of the Area Tourism Partnerships.
Giles Ingram, 38, is the Executive Director of Northumberland Tourism.
He is responsible for the largest ATP area from Berwick and the borders in the North, through Hadrian's Wall Country south to the County Durham border.
Giles is a tourism and marketing professional with an exceptional track record and a degree in economic history. He has worked in the industry for 17 years, recently as marketing and operations manager at Bath Tourism Plus Ltd, charged with improving the profitability of commercial activities which he achieved by generating 30% more accommodation bookings in 2004; increasing ticket sales by 81% in 2005; and introducing online booking. Giles also introduced a film and media unit for Bath Tourism Plus.
Plans for marketing Northumberland to the consumer in 2007 have taken a giant step forward. Tourism businesses across the county have been sent details of the County Guide being produced by Northumberland Tourism. Following consultation with all district councils, Alnwick, Blyth, Castle Morpeth, Tynedale and Wansbeck District Councils have taken the decision not to print their own holiday guides in 2007, choosing instead to support one holiday guide for the county.
For more information on Northumberland Tourism contact: 01670 794 520
County Durham Tourism:
Melanie Sensicle is the new chief executive of the County Durham Tourism and has big plans for the development of tourism in the area.
Previously head of marketing at VisitBrighton, Melanie will have responsibility for helping raise the profile of County Durham as a visitor destination, increasing visitor spend improving the quality of the product and boosting jobs.
At VisitBrighton Melanie was responsible for repositioning the city nationally and internationally, as well as attracting high profile conferences. Under Melanie, Brighton was the first destination to undertake lifestyle segmentation and she managed the subsequent change from traditional destination marketing to a strategy that focused on e-marketing and PR.
On leaving Brighton visitbrighton.com was achieving 120,000 unique visitors a month. After seven years working for a city-based tourism organisation, she is now enjoying the challenge of running a countywide agency.
As well as holding a series of stakeholder engagement road-shows over the summer, the CDTP team has also initiated a number of new projects including the establishment of the Durham Attractions Group and a major study to help understand the county's visitors in greater depth, and it has many more projects in the pipeline.
Melanie and her team will be developing an action plan for tourism development in the run-up to Christmas, and will also be leading a group of the county's major organisations in identifying a `branding' study for County Durham and working with One North East on a County Durham low-season campaign.
For more information on County Durham Tourism contact: Michelle Gorman on 0191 383 7426 or email: Michelle.Gorman@cdtp.co.uk.
Visit Tees Valley:
Julia Frater is the Head of Visit Tees Valley' and has been part of the region's tourism scene since 1992.
Her previous roles include Cleveland County Council tourism manager (later Tees Valley Tourism Bureau) and has extensive experience of the regional, national and international tourism industry and carries a tourism Masters degree.
From 2003 in her role as tourism manager for the Tees Valley Tourism Bureau, Julia has secured £4m of EU funding for Tees Valley tourism projects.
Her 20 years' senior management experience has given her a leading role in implementing the Tees Valley tourism strategy including Tees Valley's Culture10 and First for Festivals programmes, and Tourism & Hospitality Workforce Development Plan.
Following extensive consultation with the private sector, the new organisation and brand Visit Tees Valley was launched in October 2006. Extensive research is being undertaken on the consumer market, group market and contractor market to be presented to the private sector on December 8.
For more information on Visit Tees Valley Tourism contact: 01642 264957
Tourism Tyne and Wear:
Tourism Tyne and Wear is currently seeking a chairperson and eight board members to provide leadership across the partnership and to help drive the ATP forward.
A powerful partnership between local authorities and the private sector across NewcastleGateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside, Tourism Tyne & Wear is looking for individuals who are either from a tourism background or are operating at a strategic level within a public body with a good understanding of the visitor economy.
Andrew Dixon, Acting Executive Director for Tourism Tyne and Wear and Chief Executive for NewcastleGateshead Initiative said, "We are looking for positive thinkers who will bring experience and new ideas. The ATP will bring together the public and private sector to help co-ordinate the tourism products and experiences in NewcastleGateshead, Sunderland, North Tyneside and South Tyneside."
Tourism Tyne & Wear has also begun its search to recruit individuals for a small number of key positions who will be responsible for working with partners to drive forward the objectives for the ATP. Already on board is Emma Hallington, who joins the ATP as Data Collection Steward/Administrator. Emma previously worked at the University of Northumbria in its Plagiarism Advisory Service.
Other key appointments will include an ATP Tourism Coordinator and Tourism Business Relationship Manager.
Both posts are expected to be filled by the end of the year.
In October the ATP ran a number of consultation events across Tyne and Wear which were attended by over 100 people, many of whom have provided very useful feedback regarding the draft Area Tourism Management Plan and the ATP business plan.
For more information on Tourism Tyne and Wear contact: Emma Hallington at firstname.lastname@example.org