Hundreds of tourism businesses gather at iconic music venue

Collaboration, visitor experiences that make memories and core themes at the first-ever Destination North East England tourism conference.

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This landmark visitor economy industry event Destination 2034 took over the iconic Glasshouse International Centre for Music on Monday (18th March) for a jam-packed day of insightful panels, investment pitches and future facing discussion as Destination North East England looks towards doubling the size of the North East’s visitor economy within the next decade.

Delivered by Destination North East England, delegates were treated to an array of sessions delivered by more than 40 visitor economy trailblazers - drawn from across the globe, with experts in regenerative tourism, film and TV, transport and major events all sharing the stage in the venue’s stunning Sage One concert hall.

Throughout all of the day’s activities, the core themes of collaboration, effective storytelling, crafting memorable experiences and taking advantage of the old North-eastern adage ‘shy bairns get nowt’ were prevalent. Each panel ended with key takeaways and actionable opportunities for businesses to start making a difference from right there in the room.

The event was the perfect opportunity to demonstrate the power of collaborative working, as industry, government and local businesses came together to co-create and have a say on how Destination North East England can unlock the untapped potential of our visitor economy.

Delegates had the opportunity to hear about major investments being made in transport to large scale developments spanning the entire region from the Auckland Project and Raby Castle’s ‘The Rising’ to the unprecedented level of development and regeneration happening in Sunderland. Experts on developing unmissable bookable experiences and those at the forefront of technological innovation in tourism were also on hand to address some of the key challenges faced by visitor economy businesses in the region, from developing skills pipelines to embracing the continued march of AI.

There was also an opportunity to explore the impact the creative industries are having on the area and how retaining and developing creative talent and investing in major sporting, entertainment and cultural events in the region can foster a more vibrant and exciting cultural landscape for visitors to the area.

As the region forges ahead with its ambitions to become one of the most welcoming, accessible and inclusive destinations in Europe, leading voices in the accessibility and inclusion space spoke about the real, actionable steps businesses can take to welcome more LGBTQIA+ tourists and make experiences for disabled, neurodiverse and differently abled patrons better.

A key pillar of Destination North East England’s work is fostering a regenerative approach to tourism, that looks to have a net-positive impact on communities, the environment and the industry’s sustainability. Delivering a powerful keynote, CEO of Global Destination Sustainability Movement Guy Bigwood made the case for urgency and action.

Held during English Tourism Week, it was open to anyone who stood to benefit from Destination North East England’s regional programme of activity, at a hugely exciting time for the region, as the historic ‘trailblazer’ devolution deal announced in the recent Budget was signed by the region’s local authority leaders.

Headline sponsors Newcastle College were joined by panel sponsors Adkins and Cheurfi, Cundall and NCG, alongside drinks reception sponsor Lumo, all of whom have a vested interest in supercharging the visitor economy, from skills development to sustainable travel.

Newcastle College is proud to support Destination 2034 and the visitor economy and tourism industry, which are both vital to what we do as an education and skills provider developing the region’s workforce of the future “Through our close partnerships with NGI and with local venues and tourism destinations, we help prepare young people in our region for their career, ensuring they get the skills and experience they need for a successful future right here in the North East.
Tony Lewin, Executive Principal of headline sponsors Newcastle College
It was great to host such an important event here at The Glasshouse. It’s a pleasure to welcome businesses and people working in tourism across the North East
Wendy Smith, from conference hosts The Glasshouse International Centre for Music
Today’s inspirational discussions have typified what is so special about our industry here in the North East. I am extremely pleased to see such high levels of engagement and support from businesses and tourism leaders from across the area, who are all aligned behind our ambitious goal to double the size of the visitor economy and to become one of the most inclusive and welcoming destinations on the planet. This conference was all about industry and was an opportunity to provide clear pathways for them to access the support and development we offer through Destination North East England. I’d like to thank everyone who joined us for Destination 2034, and we look forward to working with you all to make North East England the place to be.
Ian Thomas, Director of Visitor Economy at NewcastleGateshead Initiative

Destination North East England is a regional collaboration with an ambition to double to size of the visitor economy, by developing our regional eco-system, attracting investment and supporting industry. Led by NewcastleGateshead Initiative, working with delivery partners Visit Northumberland and Visit County Durham and in in partnership with all seven local authorities it will work in parallel with the plans for the forthcoming North East Mayoral Combined Authority.

Businesses can still access links to all of the actionable opportunities and sign up to the various initatives offered by Destination North East England on the official event app here.


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