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The north east of England set to be new focus of domestic tourism

The UK’s least-visited region – the north east of England – is getting a major new campaign to attract more tourists.

The region had the least number of overnight stays by domestic tourists of any region in the country, new data taken between 2021 and 2023 reveals.

The Visit England figures show that the north east attracted only 3.42% of domestic tourists.

By comparison London alone received 14.63% and the South West 16.57%.

That means less money going into the local economy, supporting fewer jobs compared to other regions.

Now Visit England has chosen the region as the pilot for a three-year government funded programme examining growing the impact of the visitor economy. 

Specifically the grant will assess the best way to reduce the number of Destination Management organisations into a smaller group of high performing DMOs, from 200 to around 40.

These organisation’s sole purpose of promoting locations should then in theory have a more effective impact on consumers.

The north east of England is to be given greater focus by the national tourist board for England in an effort to bolster its domestic and international tourism numbers.

Data taken between 2021 and 2023 shows that the north east had the least number of overnight stays by domestic tourists of any region in the country.

White & Green Modern Bar Chart Graph by Joseph Williams

Now Visit England has chosen the region as the pilot for a three year government funded programme examining growing the impact of the visitor economy.

Director of Visit England, Andrew Stokes, thinks that despite the ‘north east’s ‘issues of connectivity,’ the region contains ‘outstanding tourism offerings’.

Stokes said: “It is up to the three year programme we’re working on to try and unlock some of the potential of the north east.

“Concerns about rising costs of living are one of the top barriers to people taking domestic short breaks at the moment.

“Many people are waiting for any special deals or offers or waiting to see what they can afford after Christmas.”

The Government’s report on the recovery of the tourism sector states: “Before the pandemic, in 2019, tourism contributed nearly £74 billion to the UK economy – 4% of the UK’s total Gross Value Added.”

The extent of the importance of tourism to local economies is expected to be one of the key take-aways from Visit England’s programme, but reviewing the data already goes a long way in painting a picture of how essential it can be.

The north east gained £761 million annually from domestic overnight stays, a minor number in comparison to London’s £4402 million, the south west’s £4675 million and even the North West’s £3695 million.

The Government’s report also states: “Despite positive trends domestically, businesses in the sector continue to struggle due to the continued shortfall in international visitors and the profit margin erosion created by global inflation, high levels of debt, labour shortages and supply side costs.”

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, a recent survey shows that domestic tourism is set to flourish in 2024 with more holiday-makers than last year planning to look closer to home for their short breaks.

Stokes thinks that this is a positive side-effect of Covid.

He added: “People learned through very unfortunate circumstances that they have fallen in love with their own countryside again.”

The Visit England survey also revealed that British domestic tourists will look to do more outdoor leisure and sports activities in 2024.

Instead of looking at spa, beauty and wellness retreats, which have suffered a drastic drop in interest, the British tourist intends to spend time hiking across hills, coastal trails, cycling and swimming.

Stokes concluded: “The tourism economy is vitally important to all of the factors in a local economy that make it pleasant to live in.

“When you think of the things that exist for tourists, they exist just as much for the people who choose to live in that area.”

With that in mind Visit England’s plan to bring more attention to the north east, combined with the domestic tourism forecast for 2024 that sets out a focus on outdoor lifestyle, it is easy to see a bright future for the region.

Any Londoner yearning to escape to the countryside, surround themselves with dramatic landscapes, and take part in outdoor activities can look to the northeast in 2024 and beyond.

As well as providing the domestic tourist with a great destination for their holiday, Londoners can assist in the recovery of local economies across England post Covid.

See what is set to trend in 2024 for yourself at Visit England’s website.

Featured image credit: Chris Heaton and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

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