A tourism boom in the North East sees the industry toast the strongest visitor figures since the onset of the 2008 recession today.
The first six months of 2014 saw the highest number of visitors for five years, with overseas tourists spending £88m in the region.
Visit England’s data shows the industry returning to pre-economic crisis health and the news just days after Newcastle International Airport announced it would operate a route to New York.
The figures reveal how the North East welcomed 222,000 visitors from abroad between January and June, showing an uplift of 25% on the same six months of 2013.
Spending also rose by 25% over the same period with people from Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands the most likely to visit.
Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, said: “It’s great to see such fantastic results, which are supported by our own data showing that overnight stays in Newcastle and Gateshead have increased for the same period of time, with room occupancy standing at 74% (+4% year on year).”
She added: “It’s encouraging to see the countries that we actively target - Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands - are amongst the top five for inbound visitor numbers to the North East; this suggests that our activity is delivering positive results.
“On the back of this week’s announcement that United Airlines will be launching a five-times per week service between New York and Newcastle, it’s also good to see that the USA features in the top five for both visitor numbers and spend. This new route provides even greater potential and we’ll be working to support further growth from this market over the months and years ahead.”
Visitors from Germany were most valuable, contributing £9m to the region’s economy, followed closely by those from Ireland, with £7m.
The largest volume of visits to the North East during these six months - 28,000 - came from Germany (41% higher than in 2013)
Visits from Australia, the Netherlands and Ireland also grew – up by 96%, 54% and 46% respectively.
NECC Head of Member Relations, Jonathan Walker, said: “These figures are fantastic and a fine example of how the rest of the world is waking up to the unique visitor offer of North East England.
“The tourism industry has become one of our region’s economic cornerstones and supports around 54,000 jobs. We have the greatest museums, a fascinating history, vibrant cities and beautiful countryside, not to mention a fantastic business base across our region.”
David Laws, Chief Executive of Newcastle International Airport, said: “We’re delighted to see such positive results for inbound tourism in the North East. Here at Newcastle International Airport we saw 4.46 million passengers in 2013, many of whom are travelling into the region to explore some of the cultural sights and attractions that make the North East so appealing to international visitors.
“Earlier this week we announced that Newcastle Airport has been successful in securing a transatlantic service with United Airlines, which has been a long term goal for the airport for many years. As the results show, visitors from the USA contribute significantly to the regional economy and no doubt this will be boosted significantly when the route starts in May 2015.”