AIRLINE giants Thomas Cook have revealed staggering losses of £163m for 2018, attributing most of the blame on the extended heatwave the whole of Britain enjoyed over the summer.

In a largely disappointing year for the company, its financial figures were down by nine figures after tax compared to a £9m profit last year.

Its chief executive, Peter Fankhauser, put the large nosedive down to people wanting to enjoy the hot weather at home rather than escape for a break overseas.

The idea of holidaying in Britain, ‘coined as ‘staycations’, has grown into a very attractive proposition for millions of people, with Northumberland high on the list for many tourists.

For the past four years, the county has ranked second in the UK behind Cornwall as the ‘best UK holiday county/destination of the year’ at the British Travel Awards – but this year went one better and pipped its southern rivals to top spot to bring home the coveted trophy.

Perhaps helped by the prolonged hot summer, the county has enjoyed a bumper year for tourist numbers. Yet putting it all down to the sunshine would be unfair on the thousands of people working hard to bring people to our very shores.

Hadrian’s Wall, of course, spans a large part of the district and that landmark alone attracts hundreds of thousands of people from across the globe. The opening of the Sill last year boosted those numbers significantly

Great Northumberland, a summer of free events across the county to coincide with the Great Exhibition of the North, brought record numbers of people to the county’s top visitor attractions.

In Tynedale, Cheeseburn Sculpture, in Stamfordham, was visited by more than 1,200 over just three days, their highest ever number of visitors in their four-year history. In addition, charity Mortal Fools’ immersive theatre experience that took place in and around the Prudhoe countryside was a complete sell-out.

These events just added to the fantastic package Northumberland offers people, with tourism making up 12 per cent of the county’s economy, equating to £665m. In 2017, the county welcomed more than 10m visitors, an increase of six per cent on the previous year.

The bumper year has contributed to Northumberland finally winning the gold award, with Northumberland County Council working closely with Northumberland Tourism to promote the county during a successful social media campaign.

Council leader Peter Jackson said: “We all know what a wonderful place Northumberland is to live, work, visit and do business, and we are increasingly becoming the destination of choice with more than 10m visitor coming to the county in 2017, but this award will help put us firmly on the visitor map.

“Northumberland has so much to offer as a destination from our award-winning accommodation providers and attractions to our stunning landscape and heritage.”

Work is ongoing to improve the tourism offering, and the council has vowed to continue to develop this. Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism, said: “This is a really exciting time for Northumberland and this award will help us show potential visitors from across the UK and further afield just what we have to offer.

“It has taken a lot of hard work and effort by everyone in the industry to get to where we are today, and we need to continue to work together to prove why this award is so well deserved.”