Northumberland welcomes over 10 million visitors and a record visitor spend in 2023

The latest annual STEAM* report on the economic impact of tourism shows the Northumberland tourism industry continued its post-COVID recovery topping the 10million mark last seen before the pandemic. 

The report reveals that the Northumberland visitor economy has seen continued, strong year-on-year growth and has recorded the highest ever gross value contribution of £1.262 billion, up 7.9% from 2022 with Northumberland welcoming 10.12 million visitors in 2023.

The growth in visitor numbers was driven by buoyant day visitor numbers which increased by 214,000, or 2.7%, in large part attributed to the new world-class visitor attractions at Ad Gefrin and Lilidorei, and growth in events such as the Alnwick Winter Light Trail attracting more regional out-of-season day visits.

The latest STEAM* data gathered on behalf of the region’s seven local authority areas by Destination North East England has revealed a promising upward trend versus the previous year’s results, as the region welcomed over 69 million visitors, an increase of 5% on 2022.

“We are delighted that the dedication and determination from everyone involved within Northumberland’s tourism industry is contributing hugely to the sector’s regional impact,” commented Andrew Fox, chair of Visit Northumberland. “Once again, the Northumberland visitor economy has surpassed its record gross value contribution and seen numbers grow, driven by day visitors supported by nearly two million choosing to stay overnight to see and do more while visiting all corners of the county. 

However, we welcome these results with cautious optimism as, despite spend being 20.5% higher than 2019, visitor numbers remain 5.3% lower and the economic impact remains 5.4% behind pre-pandemic levels when indexed to take inflation into account.

The figures also reveal the importance of overnight visits and hospitality sectors. Staying guests account for 18% (1.855m) of total visits but this represents 65% (£817m) of all economic impact and 48% (7.659million) of all visitor days. The £452million contribution of food and drink to the visitor economy remains the most significant to direct economic impact (48.2%) and direct employment with 4,895 jobs representing 41.8% of the total. Across the county, 14,655 jobs are supported by the Northumberland visitor economy.

Cllr Jeff Watson, Northumberland County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Tourism, added:We’re proud of the hospitality and positive experiences visitors receive in Northumberland. Tourism contributes significantly to our local communities and fosters an environment for a thriving local economy.

The sector's continued investment in new attractions, quality experiences, skills and inspirational marketing supports our efforts to sustainably grow tourism aligned to the objectives of the Northumberland Destination Management Plan." 

Whilst the region’s visitor numbers haven’t quite bounced back to pre-pandemic highs, growth can be seen right across the North East, particularly across the number of day visits, with travellers descending on vibrant urban areas, tranquil countryside and stunning coastlines for unforgettable days out.

North East Combined Authority Mayor Kim McGuinness said: “Tourism and culture are a big part of my plans to create jobs and opportunity in the North East and help our economy grow.

“We all know how amazing this region is. The pride we feel is part of our identity, as is the warm welcome we offer. It's very encouraging to see growth in visitor numbers and spend, not just in the cities but in our towns, along our coastline and in the villages and countryside too. 

“But I know we can do more. I'm committed to building on Destination North East England's ambitious plans to supercharge the visitor economy. It's important we tell our story with one voice and showcase what this region has to offer to local people and to visitors. If we get this right, we'll create thousands of good jobs and support local businesses across the region too.

“As North East Mayor I will always be a noisy champion for the North East. It really is the best place to visit."

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