THE recent announcement of Britain’s first tourism sector deal caused a ripple of excitement throughout the country.

Prime Minister Theresa May revealed her hopes that the first ever deal of its kind would bring an extra nine million visitors to the nation each year, and she committed to building 130,000 new hotel rooms by 2025 to cope with extra demand.

In addition, 10,000 new apprenticeships would be created to support careers in the tourism and hospitality sectors.

A major part of the sector deal which caused most excitement in Northumberland was the creation of five new tourism zones, which would bring businesses and organisations together to establish a co-ordinated strategy for economic growth and appeal more to visitors.

And the county has been quick to show its interest in getting a slice of the action as part of a consortium of North-East partners preparing to bid to become a tourism zone.

The new North of Tyne Combined Authority will join forces with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, North East Combined Authority, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and regional partners to become one of the five zones.

If successful, the whole region would benefit from government support to grow its visitor economy through various initiatives, including production and promotion development, mentoring support for businesses and digital skills training.

The bid was supported by Northumberland County Council. Its leader Peter Jackson, who is the portfolio holder for place and productivity of the North of Tyne authority, said: “One of the most distinctive features of tourism in the North-East is the sheer diversity of our offer, across a range of natural, environmental, heritage and cultural assets.

“As an integral part of the region’s economy, we see tremendous scope to continue to enhance and improve the quality of the whole visitor experience, form a domestic and inbound perspective, with the tourism sector deal providing a great opportunity for us to further strengthen the way we work together to achieve this. It’s absolutely essential, therefore, that we have the right infrastructure for our visitors, both in terms of transport and digital connectivity, before, during and after their stay.

“We want visitors to have the best possible experience, and get the most out of their visit to ensure they come back time and again.”

A successful application would complement the tourism drive currently spreading across Northumberland, which is bidding to retain its title as best UK holiday destination/county this year.

Northumberland ended Cornwall’s dominance in the British Travel Awards in 2018 and is calling on local people to help keep the award up north by voting at before September 30.

In further exciting news for Northumberland, the county will receive up to £80m as part of the £394.5m Borderlands deal to help boost economic activity. All this coincided with the county council’s Discover our Land campaign which promoted the best aspects of Northumberland, with the campaign given the opportunity to showcase its project in Westminster in May.

More locally, Hexham was in line for a bumper investment as Northumberland County Council prepared to submit a bid for funding between £250,000 and £2m from the Historic England High Street Heritage Action Zone.