Visit County Durham, the destination management organisation for the county, is supporting English Tourism Week by highlighting the importance of tourism to local communities – something which has been demonstrated more than ever during the current pandemic.
Ivar Stolliday, Chair of Visit County Durham explained, “VisitEngland’s English Tourism Week initiative is an opportunity to shine a light on the importance, diversity, value and vast contribution the sector makes to the UK economy.
“Not only is tourism in County Durham a major contributor to prosperity, supporting 11,998 jobs and generating £914 million a year, visitor economy businesses across the county have demonstrated even further in recent weeks how integral they are to their local communities.”
Despite being closed to customers, tourism businesses have supported communities through the provision of food and supplies to residents, NHS and key workers, learning resources for children being home-schooled, or online entertainment to lift people’s moods.
The Auckland Project’s Closed Doors Open Hearts initiative sees its catering staff producing thousands of meals for people unable to access food due to financial challenges, health problems or self-isolation. The Project’s Parks and Gardens team are also growing produce to be used as ingredients for the meals, while businesses including Seaham Hall, Rockliffe Hall and Raby Estates have been providing meals or donating essentials to NHS workers.
Bishop Auckland Food Festival and Seaham Food Festival, organised by Durham County Council, have moved the festivals online to ensure local producers continue to be supported. Durham Gin, who would have been trading at the events, has been using waste product from its distillery to produce vital supplies of hand sanitisers for health trusts, care homes and charities.
With many parents currently home-schooling, businesses are also showing support by releasing a range of learning resources, including Locomotion, with the learning hub set up by the Science Museum Group attracting a 400% increase in views since lockdown.
Cllr. Joy Allen, Cabinet Member for Transformation, Culture and Tourism at Durham County Council said, “Now more than ever it is essential that we protect tourism’s future, a sector which is vital to the county. Not just in respect of its economic value in terms of jobs and visitor spends, but also because of how tourism businesses are so intrinsically linked to, and invested in, the communities in which they are located. English Tourism Week gives us the opportunity to highlight some of the incredible deeds being done by businesses including attractions and hotels, who, despite being closed to visitors during the pandemic, have been supporting their local community.”