SEVERAL Northumberland businesses gathered last week to learn from an internationally-renowned expert in tourism marketing.
Last Thursday’s session, held at the new education centre at Hunting Hall farm near Beal, saw many businesses with a particular interest in developing ‘sustainable’ tourism practices come together to hear from Dr Xavier Font, director of the International Centre for Responsible Tourism.
The event was organised by the North Northumberland Tourism Association (NNTA), with financial support from the Northumberland Coast AONB Partnership and the Northumberland National Park.
It followed on from a very successful conference in Berwick in March when those businesses keen to spearhead the development of sustainable tourism came together to form ‘NEST’ – Northumberland Encouraging Sustainable Tourism.
Jeff Sutheran, chair of NNTA and owner with his wife Jill of St Cuthbert’s House, an award-winning B&B in Seahouses, said: “We all know that it’s more and more difficult to make a living in the tourism industry in these difficult economic conditions.
“Yet at the same time we have the most inspiring landscapes and history here in Northumberland, together with the warmest of welcomes and the most amazing local food, drink and activity providers.
“So being more ‘sustainable’ is about joining those dots in a more strategic way, so that for example guests don’t simply enjoy great food whilst they’re here, but they take some home too!
“Research shows that visitors have grown more interested in the kind of things which give them a ‘special experience’ when visiting an area – rather than simply looking for the cheapest deal. Yet whilst they’re on holiday they want to relax, and don’t want to be ‘challenged’ about environmental issues.”
Xavier Font works as an advisor to many Governments looking to address issues of sustainability, and has worked on behalf of VisitBritain too.
Duncan Wise, chief executive of the National Park said: “Xavier is an engaging and inspirational speaker, who has the ability to bring hard challenges in a way which left us eager to get back to our desks and implement some changes.”
Iain Robson from the AONB partnership added: “Everybody working for tourism in our area wants to see guests having a memorable experience during their visit and longing to return. The kind of help and advice Xavier brought last week was priceless.”