PEOPLE who live and work in Northumberland don’t need to be told how great the county is, but until fairly recently it could arguably have been seen as a bit of a hidden gem.

But it seems the word is spreading about what the county has to offer, including a vast selection of historic sites, outstanding beaches and breathtaking scenery, and as a result more visitors are being attracted to the area.

That was highlighted when last year, Northumberland won Best UK Holiday County/Destination in the prestigious 2018 British Travel Awards – having been beaten by Cornwall for the previous four years.

And now an annual report detailing the economic impact of tourism on Northumberland has been released, showing the visitor economy in Northumberland is continuing to grow year on year.

The research conducted by the NewcastleGateshead Initiative shows that the county welcomed 10.48 million visitors during 2018, a two per cent increase on 2017.

Meanwhile visitors spent £1 billion when exploring the county in 2018, which is a four per cent rise on the year before.

It’s not surprising that people are choosing Northumberland as a tourist destination.

Northumberland’s coastline is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the county boasts the quietest national park in the UK and there are more castles here than in any other county in the country.

A big attraction for visitors is the scattering of historical sites around the area, and most famously the longest stretch of Hadrian’s Wall which can be explored at more than 20 English Heritage sites.

As a result of a growing number of visitors, the report showed promising figures about how the tourism success was helping local employment, showing that 13,020 people were directly employed by tourism in Northumberland. This most recent figure from 2018 is a 6.27 per cent increase on the previous year.

Cath Homer, cabinet member for culture, arts, leisure and tourism at Northumberland County Council said: “Tourism continues to be a major economic driver for Northumberland and to have broken through the £1 billion visitor spend figure is brilliant news for the county.

“Northumberland really is in the spotlight at the moment with a number of exciting accolades, most notably the British Travel Awards Gold from last year. These figures demonstrate the continued growth in tourism and the hard work and dedication of everyone working in the industry.

“Our Discover our Land campaign aims to build on these credentials and raise the profile of the county even further to ensure that we continue to be the number one destination of choice.”

The Discover our Land campaign promotes Northumberland as a place to live, work, visit and invest in. It has seen councillors, tourism and business leaders travel to London to spread the word about the opportunities for businesses and investment in the county.

With the campaign continuing to grow, hopes are high that Northumberland will come out on top again and win the title of Best UK Holiday Destination/County 2019, and Northumberland County Council and Northumberland Tourism are working together to spread the word.

Voting for the title closes on September 30, and votes can be cast on: