Northumberland Tourism has announced that its director, Jude Leitch, will be leaving the company after four years in charge.

Jude first joined the company in 2009 as marketing manager responsible for raising Northumberland’s profile as a tourism destination.

Since assuming the director’s role, Jude has worked with partners across the county’s tourism industry and the number of visitors to the county has risen by nearly eight per cent with the economic benefit from tourism rising nine per cent to more than £924m at the last count.

As a member of both the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Beauty Partnership and North East England Nature Partnership, Jude was concerned that tourism contributed to the preservation and enhancement of Northumberland’s valuable natural resources so that these could be enjoyed by locals and visitors alike.

She also encouraged the county’s young people to consider tourism careers through her position on the Northumberland College board of governors and as chairwoman of Kirkley Hall Ltd, the company managing the college’s Kirkley Hall Zoo.

Nationally, Jude represents the county as chairwoman of the Tourism Management Institute and chairs the National Rural Tourism Group, lobbying government for change.

Jude said: “Our stunning countryside and natural assets like our dark skies have been known to some for many years, but the enthusiasm and innovation of the people in our tourism organisations and businesses means we now offer some of the best experiences in the country.

“I’m very proud that Northumberland is admired across the national tourism industry and I’m sure tourism will continue to play a significant part in the county’s prosperity.”

Jude will now concentrate on the bed and breakfast business she runs with her partner on the Northumberland coast.