Tourism bosses have hailed an article in one of the world’s top newspapers which highlights the North East as the best place to visit in the UK.
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Jane Smiley visited Durham, parts of Northumberland and Tyneside on her trip across the Atlantic for the New York Times.
The newspaper is one of America and the world’s best read sources of news, with its website receiving more than 30 million visitors a month.
In a travel piece for the paper, Ms Smiley praised the North East, telling readers that “four days of exploration and admiration was shading into love”.
Now bosses at the region’s tourism boards are hopeful that her glowing report will boost visitor numbers from the US as well as other international visitors.
While in Durham, Ms Smiley visited the Cathedral as well as Durham Castle and the Parish Church of St Oswald. In her piece, titled “Lost in Time in England’s Northeast”, she said: “As small and old as it is, Durham is chock-full of hiding places, wildflowers, sudden views of sky and meadows. It did not remind me of anywhere else I have been in Britain.”
Ivor Stolliday, the chairman of the Visit County Durham board, said: “It’s a terrific article, really well researched and draws on the extraordinary history and vitality of the place.
“I hope it brings more visitors, particularly from the USA. We are acutely aware that people get on the train from London and see Durham Cathedral from the window on their way to Edinburgh and wonder what that place was. It would be great if more people got off in Durham now.”
He added: “We have worked for years to get Durham’s name better known and I think we are achieving it. We are delighted with this article. The New York Times has a huge online readership and its themes and ideas get picked up by other people, this is really positive for us and very accurate.”
During her trip to the region, Ms Smiley also visited Northumberland, taking in Lindisfarne as well as heading to Jarrow to see St. Paul’s and Bede’s World. She also took in the sights of Newcastle and Gateshead , including the “most beautiful street in England”, Grey Street.
After her trip, when she returned to London, she wrote that she could feel her love of the country slipping away.
She wrote: “What was missing was the light, the space, the sharpness and fragrance of the air.
“For real Anglophilia, I thought, you should be driving from the Durham railway station, just before twilight, up North Road, Potters Bank and Elvet Hill Road, narrow, green, damp, mysterious, arriving at the top in time for one last look at the ancient world that still lives in the landscape there.”
Jude Leitch, general manager for Northumberland Tourism, said it was great for the region to have recognition in such a prestigious newspaper.
“Something like this is always wonderful for us as we don’t have the resources, we can’t be advertising enough,” she said.
“We tend to work with VisitEngland to access those kinds of markets internationally and get messages to them so something like this is absolutely brilliant. If we are getting really positive messages about the North East to markets like New York, we know there are large numbers coming to visit England from there and it attracts them out of London.
“The North East is competing with honeypots like Oxford and Bath so we have a double challenge attracting people out of London and then getting them to come here. This kind of article could really help.”
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, added: “It’s great to read such positive coverage of the region in a publication like the New York Times, an influential newspaper with a wide global reach online.
“We work with national and international media on a daily basis to change outdated perceptions and help secure positive profile for the area. Journalists that we bring here to visit and explore always leave as advocates for the place and it’s clear from this article that Jane Smiley’s experience was no different - her initial expectations of the region were surpassed by the reality of what we have to offer here.
“North East England remains a popular destination for both domestic and international visitors and this coverage really supports ongoing work to attract more profile, visitors and economic benefits for the region, putting it on the map for all the right reasons.”
The tourism industry supports more than 50,000 jobs in the North East and puts £2bn into the local economy each year.