More to us than one Angel ; The region's tourism industry has never been more important. But, as our exclusive poll shows, many parts of the North... [Newcastle Journal (England)]
(Newcastle Journal (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) More to us than one Angel ; The region's tourism industry has never been more important. But, as our exclusive poll shows, many parts of the North East are punching below their weight. ADRIAN PEARSON looks at findings.
NORTH East tourism is increasingly dependent on Tyneside's selling points, an exclusive Journal poll has shown. After years of cuts to tourist bodies, and three years after the Government axed a regional marketing body, the North East is struggling to sell itself past Tyneside.
A national survey by North East research specialists Other Lines of Enquiry North, using their in-house panel, Panelbase, showed the region's tourism offering is dwarfed by a few Tyneside icons.
Asked which North East landmark best sums up the North East, nationally some 47% said the Angel of the North, followed by the Tyne Bridge with 14%. In third place, with just 7%, was Hadrian's Wall.
Just 3% of people asked said they thought the Northumberland coast best summed up the North East, with nearly 4% saying the same for Durham Cathedral.
Regionally the landmarks follow the same order of preference, but with votes distributed more widely. The Angel of the North still topped the list, but with 37% of the vote. The Tyne Bridge took 24%, suggesting the much-travelled crossing is a firm favourite in the region. Hadrian's Wall managed 7% in the region.
The figures back those who say the region has suffered since development agency One North East was abolished from 2010.
Before the coalition took the axe to the agency it had won global awards for its Passionate People, Passionate Places tourism campaign. Importantly, the agency used its hefty advertising budget to promote all of the region, not just the city centre.
Since the agency went the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative, a Tyneside marketing group, has taken the lead in promoting the region. Backed financially by the two councils, as well as business contributions, it plays an increasingly influential role in major funding decision. Sarah Stewart, chief executive of the public private partnership organisation that promotes the area to attract visitors, events and investment, said: "The results of this poll are really interesting and encouraging.
Those who responded from within and outside of the North East, of all ages, seem to agree on the icons that are most synonymous with the region, with Angel of the North and the Tyne Bridge consistently coming out top by a significant margin." The organisation also bought up the rights to the Passionate People campaign, but has since been happy to hold onto this and other intellectual properties related to North East tourism.
The result has been obvious for those in the industry. This newspaper has previously reported on concerns from Northumberland that it is losing out in its tourism pitch as the money behind the organisations which can advertise nationally is withdrawn. It is an issue Grant Davey, this year appointed as leader of Northumberland County Council, has long recognised. Mr Davey has made clear he wants to use the council's assets to help support the tourism sector, including using the council's website to sell the county. He said: "These figures highlight an interesting image people across the UK have of the North East and Northumberland in particular. We can't get away from the politics of tourism and its clear the region is continuing to come to terms with the coalition decision to scrap our regional tourism offer and it's now even more important that the seven North East councils grasp the nettle when it comes to the tourism industry. "In Northumberland, tourism accounts for over Pounds 700m revenue and expenditure and it underpins our a key section of our service economy supporting over 1,000 jobs directly and many more indirectly. As a county we're interested in working with our council partners to develop a distinctive new direction for the
North East tourism industry and as a county, we promised that we'd do more to support the tourism industry across Northumberland." Across the region tourism supports more than 65,000 jobs across the North East and contributes an estimated Pounds 4.2bn to the local economy, based on pre-recession figures. As such it was one of the areas highlighted as an opportunity in Lord Adonis's recent review of the North East economy. Seven councils from Durham up to Northumberland are due to form a combined authority by April next year, with a suggestion that a regional tourism plan could be introduced to better divide resources. Among the other findings. in the survey was the perhaps surprisingly low ranking for Newcastle's Bigg Market and the city's famed nightlife. Just 1.5% rated this as a North East landmark , suggesting that despite having a drinking culture which regularly features on national televison, Newcastle was managing to sell itself as more than just a place for Hen parties. Nationally no one in the 18-24-yearold category voted for the nightlife element, and even in the region only 3% of that age range rated it. As Ms Stewart said: "It's incredibly positive that the Angel of the North- as a contemporary piece of public art - is the landmark that the general public most recognise and associate with the area .
This suggests that ongoing work to change outdated stereotypes and promote its many strengths is making an impact. In contrast, Newcastle's Bigg Market - which often has very negative connotations in the national media - hardly registers, even with the 18-24 age group questioned." Tyneside is still currently a tourism boom. Figures out in the summer showed 1.9m people spent a total of 4.3 million nights in the area during 2012, contributing Pounds 404m to the economy - an increase of 8% from 2011.
High-profile events, such as Olympic football at St James' Park and a number of big conferences, helped to boost business. The Port of Tyne tells a similar success story. Port bosses reported a record number of cruise calls last year, which they claim contributed Pounds 54m to the region's economy and supported 1,800 tourism- related jobs.
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