Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Warm Welcome Is No Less Than Visitors Deserve

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

A Warm Welcome Is No Less Than Visitors Deserve

Article excerpt

Byline: By Graeme King and Helen Logan

Tourism is big business in the North-East. Graeme King and Helen Logan take a look at how it is working wonders for the region's economy.

Such has been the success of the Alnwick Garden it is already one of the major attractions used to draw in new visitors to the North-East. Yet the garden is only in its second year of being open to the public and is nowhere near finished with phases two and three still to be started.

In its first 12 months, no less than 300,000 people visited the site, just a short walk from Alnwick Castle, which itself has had a boost through the success of the Harry Potter films being shot there.

Now the tourist authority, ferry companies, and even cruise lines are citing the Alnwick Garden as a reason to visit the region, alongside the established attractions of the Durham City and Hadrian's Wall world heritage sites.

In June this year, the garden was named as one of the region's top attractions in the Pride of Northumbria Awards 2003.

The Duchess of Northumberland, who was the driving force behind getting the garden built, has now handed over responsibility for running the attraction to a trust led by outgoing One NorthEast chairman Dr John Bridge.

And the growth keeps on going, with car parking already massively expanded and calls for a new bridge to be built to take the strain of so many visitors trying to reach the site.

Staff levels at the pounds 42m project have risen significantly in recent months following a recruitment drive aimed at keeping pace with visitors.

About 70 people work in full or seasonal posts now.

But beyond the obvious benefits of tourism income boosting the North-East economy, the Alnwick Garden, like the Gateshead Millennium Bridge and, to a lesser extent, the Angel of the North, have helped to transform outsiders' views of what the North-East is about.

Although those familiar with the region have always known how attractive it was and how much there was to see here, there was a widespread feeling elsewhere that this was still an industrial place - and one lagging years behind the rest of the country.

While change had been going on for years, including the transformation of the Tyne Quayside into a leisure area, and the regeneration of Sunderland City Centre, the perception outside the region was still often a negative one.

An economic impact study on the Alnwick Garden found the total pounds 42m investment will eventually generate an economic rate of return of 11.5pc and a minimum of 280 direct and indirect jobs should be created by the project.

Since the opening of the garden there have been a significant number of planning applications for additional tourist accommodation facilities in Alnwick. …

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