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City-breakers boost business to buck economic trend

Sarah Stewart, chief executive at destination management and marketing organisation, NewcastleGateshead Initiative
A packed calendar of festivals and events last year, including Olympic Football at St James’ Park, has cemented NewcastleGateshead’s reputation as a city-break destination of choice, with new figures showing 14% more people stayed overnight in 2012.
Estimated using the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Model (STEAM), the figures released today shows a significant increase in the value and volume of overnight visitors. 1.9m people (up by 200,000 compared to 2011) spent a total of 4.3 million nights in NewcastleGateshead in 2012 (up 5%), contributing £404m to the local economy (up 8%).

Sarah Stewart, chief executive at destination management and marketing organisation, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Despite economically challenging times NewcastleGateshead 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 that continues to attract investment. This is a great boost for the local economy as well as great news for everyone working in the tourism industry. ”

Damon Roberts, joint chair of the North East Hotels Association said: “These figures are extremely positive from a hotelier perspective as the popularity of NewcastleGateshead 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 NewcastleGateshead for the day, has grown significantly reaching 19.7 million people, (an increase of 2%); tourism is now worth £1.3bn to the local economy.  Employment in the sector has also seen growth with 18,799 people now employed in tourism related jobs, (a rise of 2%).

Sleeperz Newcastle opened in January 2012; Javeed Anwar, head of sales and marketing at Sleeperz Hotels, commented: “The performance of our city centre Newcastle hotel reflects the positive economic impact tourism is having in NewcastleGateshead.

“In our first 12 months we welcomed over 35,000 guests and won a hat-trick of industry awards for family friendly accommodation, architectural excellence and customer satisfaction. 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.”

As well as NewcastleGateshead’s annual programme of festivals and events, which features favourites like EAT!, Juice Festival and the New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival, 2012 also saw a string of high-profile meetings take place.

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; combined, the two events attracted more than 1,850 delegates and ploughed more than £2m into the local economy.

Attractions across the destination also saw increased footfall across the year with 2.3 million visitors, (up 5% compared to 2011). The summer saw the arrival of Olympic Football on Tyneside with teams including Mexico and Brazil taking part in the London 2012 Olympic Football tournament at St James’ Park.

Sarah Stewart added: “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 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.”

NewcastleGateshead Initiative is currently undertaking a face to face survey to get direct feedback from visitors about their stay and see how the experience can be made even better.

The survey, the first of its kind for three years, will provide valuable data to help understand who is currently coming to NewcastleGateshead and help shape future marketing campaigns. Partners including hotels and leisure attractions will be helping carry out the survey which will run throughout the summer.

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