THE Culture Secretary has been told his efforts to boost North East tourism off the back of the Olympic games do not go far enough.
Jeremy Hunt was in Gateshead to urge tourism firms to get involved in his department’s Olympic promotions.
The Government is spending £4m on national advertising campaign as part of efforts to bring millions more visitors to the UK.
Those efforts compare unfavourably with the average £12m axed development agency One North East spent on regional-specific tourism support, advertising work banned by the coalition Government.
Speaking at the Sage, Gateshead, Mr Hunt said he wanted to see jobs come as a result of the Olympics.
He said: “This will be the year in all our lifetimes when we are the centre of the global spotlight. It is not just London, the Olympic flame will be in the North East nearly as long as it is in London, and what I am here to do today is to see we make the most of this by boosting the local tourism industry and make sure the whole world knows about the majesty of say Alnwick or Durham Cathedral, the Northumbria coastline, the North Pennines, or the incredible cultural renaissance that has happened here in Gateshead with the Sage and the Baltic and the Angel of the North.
“There is so much to see here, we need to make sure people don’t just read about London, that they learn about the North East as well.”
He added: “We have put a lot into this, the advertising that starts in March, they are at the same frequency as Cadbury’s Creme Egg adverts, so if we can sell as many holidays as they do Creme Eggs, it should mean a lot more jobs.”
But Catherine McKinnell, the Newcastle North MP attending the same event, said it was disappointing that the region no longer had its own unique promotional funding.
She said: “It’s clearly vital that as a region we make the most of the opportunities the Olympics can bring. I am concerned, however, that the Government’s offer of producing a national Tourism website will not be enough to ensure the North East gets its fair share of potential business.
“Jeremy Hunt acknowledged the excellent work that One North East did in promoting the region as a tourist destination, but this offer is in no way an adequate substitute.
“I was disappointed that despite the North East being the region with the highest unemployment, the Government is not offering any targeted support. The fact that he referred to the benefits of high speed rail when the new line is not even coming to the region is a worrying sign of just how out of touch this Government is.
“I have no doubt local business will rise to the challenge, but it’s concerning the Government is offering little support.”
Page 2 - North East to get £2M Visitor fund >>
North East to get £2M Visitor fund
TOURISM experts have said the North East is set to benefit from a £2m visitor fund.
Dave Watson, tourism lead for Deloitte in the North East, said a £2m investment from Visit England’s Growing Tourism Locally project will help bring more people to the region this year.
The industry is worth some £4bn to the North East economy each year, supporting 65,000 jobs. Visitor numbers had dived by 17% and 22% in 2008 and 2009 respectively as a result of the recession, but Mr Watson said there is good reason to think growth will return.
Visit Britain already say there has been an 8% increase in visits to the region over the last 12 months and a 17% increase in the number of nights people stayed in the region. However the total spend by these visitors was down 10% on 2010.
Mr Watson said: "Both Olympic football at St James’ Park and an overspill from visitors to London present an opportunity for the North East to increase inbound visitor numbers, as well as spend in the leisure sector.
"It has been an extremely challenging period for businesses globally, nationally and regionally. The sector has faced challenges from volcanic ash clouds, terrorist attacks and political unrest, in addition to the global credit crisis and recession.
"However there are reasons for optimism and good prospects for the North East and that’s why I’m glad to be back in the region."
That revival has already been seen in the ferry trade. DFDS Seaways, operating a daily cruise ferry route from Newcastle to Amsterdam, say that despite the economic downturn there has been an increase in passenger numbers for two consecutive years.
The number of inbound visitors using the route has increased by 19% from 2009 to 2010 and DFDS expects to see a growth when results for 2011 are published in the New Year.