A big jump in tourists coming to Tyneside was worth more than £400m to the local economy.
Figures from the marketing agency NewcastleGatestead Initiative show that 1.9 million people spent a total of 4.3 million nights in the area during 2012, contributing £404m to the economy – an increase of 8% from 2011.
Experts say high-profile events, such as Olympic football at St James’ Park and a number of big conferences, helped to boost business.
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Despite economically challenging times the area continues to offer stand-out experiences for visitors, from events like EAT! which again takes place later this month, to our world-famous nightlife and a retail and food offer.
“This is a great boost for the economy as well as great news for everyone working in the tourism industry. As well as football, we also hosted the Olympic torch, with a spectacular event that saw Bear Grills zip wire from the Tyne Bridge.
“The summer buzz around the Olympics allowed us to showcase the place as a vibrant and exciting destination, famous for our friendly welcome and inspiring festivals.
“These figures are testament to the success of last year’s Olympic summer, as well as our annual festivals and conferences, which reinforce our reputation for delivering major events.”
As well as an annual programme of events, including the Juice Festival and the New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival, last year also saw a string of high-profile meetings held in the area.
The Sage Gateshead hosted the Liberal Democrat Spring Conference in March, completing a hat-trick of political party conferences, while Newcastle Civic Centre welcomed the National Union of Journalists in October.
The two events attracted more than 1,850 delegates and ploughed more than £2m into the economy.
Damon Roberts, joint chairman of the North East Hotels Association, said: “These figures are extremely positive from a hotelier perspective as the popularity of Newcastle-Gateshead as a destination for overnight visitors continues to grow.
“A varied events programme across the area helps to boost occupancy at hotels throughout the region.”
Overall the number of visitors, including those coming to the city for the day, has reached 19.7m – an increase of 2%. Tourism is now worth £1.3bn to the North East.
In addition, employment in the sector has grown. Around 18,799 people work in tourism-related jobs, a rise of 2%.
Javeed Anwar, head of sales and marketing at Sleeperz Hotels, which opened in Newcastle in January last year, said: “The performance of our city centre hotel reflects the positive economic impact tourism is having.
“Opening our second UK hotel in Newcastle was a great decision and our occupancy rates continue to reflect the city’s appeal as a visitor destination.”