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Boost for Durham as new developments drive growth in the visitor economy

Latest tourism figures show a major boost for Durham’s economy as the county builds on its bumper £1bn milestone achieved in 2022, with new attractions playing a key role in helping the county reach a new record.

Visit County Durham, the county’s Destination Management Organisation and Durham County Council’s tourism service, has welcomed the results which show visitor expenditure rose by 18.8% in 2023, with the value of the county’s visitor economy hitting £1.23bn. Overall, 20.15 million people visited the county last year, an increase of 12.5%.  The number of people employed in tourism has also grown, up by 12.4% to 13,178. It is welcome news as visitor numbers and employment have now exceeded pre-pandemic figures for the first time*.

New attractions including the Spanish Gallery and Faith Museum, part of The Auckland Project, and further additions to the 1950s Town at Beamish Museum, have been instrumental in the county’s success, and with even more significant developments opening this year, the future looks bright for the county’s visitor economy.

In the last month alone, New Hall at Locomotion opened to create the largest under cover collection of historic rail vehicles in Europe, and in Durham City, The Story has brought the county’s fascinating history to life at the new state-of-the-art history centre. The ambitious development at Raby Castle has also recently opened, with The Rising expanding its visitor offer with reimagined walled gardens, restored heritage buildings and new restaurant showcasing local produce.

The county’s tourism offer will be enhanced even further this summer, with Return of the Vikings, a new pre-show experience at Kynren, where visitors can experience the recreation of a 9th century village complete with cookhouse, cottages, and a working blacksmith’s forge. The much-anticipated 1950s Cinema at Beamish Museum will open this week just days after visitors were given the chance to visit the new toy shop and electrical store. It doesn’t stop there as visitors will soon be able to stay overnight for the first time at the museum in Georgian-themed accommodation and experience the pottery and tavern.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “We are thrilled with the latest economic assessment STEAM results, which are testament to the incredible partnerships across the county that are committed to working together to grow our visitor economy. The county has really shown its potential in the past three years and has greatly benefited from new attractions and developments over recent years, and with more to come it puts us in a strong position for 2024 and beyond.”

Duncan Peake, CEO of Raby Estates and Interim Chair of Visit County Durham added: “These results illustrate the resilience of the county’s visitor economy and the investment that is now being made in our visitor offer. They also show that we have not only survived the challenges of the last few years but have emerged much stronger.

Right now across the county you can see new projects coming on stream. Multi-million-pound developments are underway at our visitor accommodation, from hotels to glamping pods, and at attractions including, Locomotion’s New Hall, The Rising at Raby Castle, The Auckland Project, and Beamish… and with many more projects in the pipeline, it really is an exciting time for Durham.”
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