NORTHUMBERLAND’s tourism industry lost nearly one third of its visitors last year as the continued downpour kept families away.
National Park chief executive Tony Gates revealed the figures when putting the case for rural communities to the House of Commons environment and rural affairs select committee yesterday.
Mr Gates said it was clear tourism at Northumberland National Park, and elsewhere, had taken a hit.
He told the committee: “Tourism is the single biggest area of the economy with the greatest potential. If we look at the economic contribution nationally we are talking £6bn, a significant contribution.
“And yes, last year was significantly disappointing. In some cases figures were down 25%, and in some areas visitor spending was down as much as 30%.”
Asked if he thought perceptions of the rainy weather contributed to this, Mr Gates said: “Yes, but I think we would accept it has to be of the offer.
“When we do research into why people don’t visit one of the barriers is the risk. People think the weather could be a big risk.
“We know there is stuff to do here if it rains and we need to look at that and see where we can enhance that. We have plans for a large landscape centre in the Hadrian’s Wall area.
“But we can’t say the key attraction is the centre, it’s the park itself and people should accept that.” Mr Gates was asked if rising petrol prices were contributing to the declining numbers.
He said: “We don’t have researched evidence into that, but our anecdotal evidence is that petrol costs are a big factor people consider when coming here.
“You have, say, a 45-minute drive from some of our urban areas, we see the impact of those petrol prices on footfall, we can see a big drop and I think people are factoring in fuel cost.
“We tell people what we have here is free to use but if it’s half a tank of petrol to get there and back. It’s a big factor.”