Bernie Callaghan: The world is on our doorstep

It has been said that if the North East were 10 degrees warmer it would be the playground of Europe

Alnwick Castle in Northumberland
Alnwick Castle in Northumberland

It has been said that if the North East were 10 degrees warmer it would be the playground of Europe. Watch out St Tropez!

With all this sunshine and the fantastic choice of events this summer, the region is a world-class tourist destination.

The Ashes at Durham, the Festival of the North East, Sunderland Air Show, European Athletics at Gateshead Stadium and many more annual shows and festivals make for an extraordinary holiday season, attracting thousands of visitors and millions of pounds.

Together with unique historic exhibits such as the Lindisfarne Gospels, 2013 is outstanding in bringing together globally-important attractions in one area.

When we think big we have a reputation for producing memorable, successful events.

Each event does wonders for our economy, with hotels, restaurants and local businesses reaping the benefits. In the longer-term they can also provide a unique spur for economic growth.

Positive publicity from major events has an effect on universities’ ability to recruit UK-wide and international students, and on businesses’ capacity to attract the best employees. They are all more likely to stay in a lively, attractive, outward-looking area.

The importance of tourism as one of Britain’s biggest businesses is reflected in my faculty, which is currently boosting its staff and research profile in tourism, hospitality and events. We have a strong international reputation in this area and our investment will help to strengthen the region and the UK’s tourism expertise.

A North East-wide strategy to direct and develop the huge growth in tourism we’ve enjoyed during the past decade is vital. The region’s voice has to be clearly heard by government and influential national bodies when tourism policies and investment are decided.

Attractions such as Hadrian’s Wall are just one brick in what has to be a cohesive tourism plan that captures the attention of global audiences. Tourism is a brutally competitive industry, transformed by digital technology, with a growing number of sectors fragmenting visitor numbers.

We have cities, countryside, crags, culture and coastline to compete with the best. With an ambitious global tourism strategy that matches the region’s ability to create unforgettable, exceptional experiences, we’ll be world-beaters.

:: Professor Bernie Callaghan is dean of the faculty of business and law at the University of Sunderland

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