It's not as brochure, say rebel hoteliers

A band of rebel hoteliers have set up their own North-East tourism agency after claiming an official body was failing to attract visitors.

Mandy Lance who runs the Fairfield House guest house

A band of rebel hoteliers have set up their own North-East tourism agency after claiming an official body was failing to attract visitors.

The new Welcome Northumberland group has attracted 60 members since it was created last month following frustration at the work of a company backed by local authorities and regional development agency One NorthEast (ONE).

Members say they have been disappointed by the response to expensive adverts placed in Northumberland Tourism's official brochure for 2007.

And they have voiced fears they could be left to pick up an expensive bill to run the body, which is currently part-funded by ONE and county and district councils. Guest houses and hotels pay a £25 membership fee plus a one-off £50 fee for a full-page advert on the Welcome Northumberland website.

Chairman Bruce Hewison, who runs the West Acre Guest House in Alnwick, said they were "modest sums" compared with the brochure.

"I have paid nearly £800 for a quarter-page ad featuring our accommodation in that publication and to date I have received just three bookings as a result," he said.

Mr Hewison has previously set up Rothbury and Coquetdale Tourism Association and Alnwick Tourism Association, which runs the Visit Alnwick website.

And in an apparent slight on Northumberland Tourism - one of four independent area tourism partnerships in the region - he said: "In each case, the associations were created from the ground upwards. There was no question of imposing structures on the membership.

"What concerns our membership is that the private sector will ultimately have to meet the costs of running Northumberland Tourism and that means every accommodation provider, however large or small, and every tourist attraction will be faced with increasing overheads every year that they will have no control over."

Fellow member Mandy Lance, of the Fairfield House guest house in Warkworth, said: "I've had minimal inquiries for the money I put into [Northumberland Tourism]. Visit Alnwick has generated the business that got me going all last summer."

Northumberland Tourism executive director Giles Ingram said: "We welcome the setting up of the new tourism association Welcome Northumberland and look forward to a positive and creative working partnership.

"Indeed we have already helped Welcome Northumberland by pointing them in the right direction for possible public sector funding for their website."

He said it is too early to assess the success of its brochure, and said its costs could not be compared with a website.

Laura Davis, head of tourism at ONE, said: "The North-East England holiday guides offer great value for money both for the public sector and for private advertisers."

The 2005 guide was found by independent research to have generated £25m worth of business for the region for a cost of £447,000, she added.

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer