North East England leads the way with access and inclusion

Visitors heading to the region can now feel safe, welcomed and included before they arrive thanks to a ground breaking, interactive 3D photography and pioneering inclusivity training designed to break down barriers to access for everyone.

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Destination North East England, England’s first Destination Development Partnership Pilot has commissioned and funded the creation of a number of 3D interactive venue tours which take visitors on a virtual tour of some of the region’s major attractions, hotels, dining spots and popular locations, providing helpful, interactive accessibility information along the way. The interactive nature of the photography means visitors can explore every nook and cranny of a venue as though they were there in person.

Launching as part of #DisabilityPrideMonth, the 3D photography forms part of ambitious plans to not only double the value of the visitor economy in the region over the next decade but to also position the North East of England as one of Europe’s most welcoming, inclusive and accessible destinations.

The interactive experiences offer visitors the chance to familiarise themselves with a space before they arrive, helping those with access needs plan their route or neurodivergent people feel more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment for example. Whilst 360° photography and 3D virtual tours have been around for a while, no other destination in the UK has produced this amount of accessibility focussed imagery, covering a wide array of access requirements with such a huge range of venues and attractions. The work is truly barrier breaking and unlocks trips to some of the region’s best places to visit for people who may not otherwise feel comfortable accessing them.

Venues and experiences that feature as part of the project include family attraction, Diggerland, Sunderland’s Fire Station and Engine Room, contemporary arts venue Northern Stage, the renowned Kielder Observatory and fine dining restaurant Dobson and Parnell. More venues are being captured currently in the hope that as many parts of the region’s visitor economy are featured as possible.

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For many visitors, their access requirements not being met or unclear information on how to access a venue can often make for a challenging or difficult experience. Of the approximately 1.4 billion people travelling the world, 15% identify as disabled or having an accessibility requirement and through the work of Destination North East England, the region is aiming to ensure visitors are not only able to access as much of what the North East has to offer, but can do so in a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment.

Visitors will soon be able to access the 3D photography on the region’s tourism booking platform New Adventures, via each LVEP’s channels and at

Over the summer, Destination North East England has also helped train over almost 150 visitor economy businesses to be inclusive and welcoming spaces for LGBTQIA+ people and the communities around them. Working in collaboration with charity Northern Pride and inclusive arts organisation Curious Arts, these groundbreaking training sessions have equipped business leaders, front of house teams and key stakeholders with the right language and actionable plans to make LGBTQIA+ people feel safe, heard and seen. This unique training, pioneered in the North East, is now being rolled out to leadership teams at several other LVEPs (Local Visitor Economy Partnerships) across England to share best practice.

Our ambitious goals around accessibility and inclusion mean we’re determined to be at the forefront of the work going on nationally to make tourism, leisure and hospitality more accessible, welcoming and inclusive. It has been incredibly rewarding to see businesses getting behind this work and I am excited to begin rolling out more of our Everybody Welcome programme, alongside VisitEngland’s accessibility activity. I’m proud to say that the North East really is leading the way and I can’t wait to see how this 3D photography, our Proud Allies training and the wider access and inclusion programme impact on the experience for our visitors
Laura Freer, Head of Visitor Economy Development at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, one of the lead partners on Destination North East England

The 3D photography and Proud Allies training form part of the wider Everybody Welcome programme which will relaunch with a refreshed offer of business support, training and toolkits in the coming months. Destination North East England are working alongside leading accessibility consultants, so businesses already signed up to Everybody Welcome and those starting their accessibility journey will have access to even more support to make sure they can provide a safe, inclusive and welcoming environment for every visitor.

The North East of England was chosen to deliver the first-ever Destination Development Partnership pilot in England, receiving £2.25 million from national government. Born out of the pilot, Destination North East England has been the catalyst for the development of ten-year plan that looks to double the value of the visitor economy. It is led by NewcastleGateshead Initiative on behalf of the region, working with delivery partners Visit Northumberland and Visit County Durham and in in partnership with all seven local authorities to unlock the growth potential of the visitor economy.

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