The north east’s victory in a competition to win £1m worth of advertising across Heathrow Airport could pay huge dividends for the region’s tourism industry.
That’s the view of Jeff Sutheran, chairman of the North Northumberland Tourism Association and owner of the award-winning St Cuthbert’s Guest House in North Sunderland.
He said: “To get such high-profile exposure for the north east region as a whole is just fantastic, a wonderful opportunity.
“We know that the great majority of international travellers think they’ve ‘done’ England with a visit to London or the hotspots like Bath, or the Cotswolds.
“But once they’re stopped in their tracks by some of the fabulous imagery and stories which this campaign can present to them, I’m quite sure there will be many who will be taking the ‘road less travelled’ and enjoying some genuine northern hospitality.”
The competition saw the north east go head-to-head with the north west, midlands and Northern Ireland in a public vote for their favourite British region with the winner to receive £1m worth of free advertising at the airport with VisitBritain.
The north east, promoted with a breathtaking image of Hadrian’s Wall, claimed over 19,000 facebook ‘likes’ to pip Northern Ireland.
John Holland Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, said: “Heathrow is the gateway to Britain and sees around 73 million passengers a year travel through the airport. With seven flights a day from Heathrow to Newcastle we hope the winning images will inspire passengers to explore the beautiful north east during their visit to the UK.”
David Laws, chief executive at Newcastle International Airport, said: “Newcastle International is delighted to have played a part in securing this major £1m advertising campaign at Heathrow Airport on behalf of the north east.
“The way in which the region once again came together to achieve an objective proves what we are capable of if we have a common goal. Our whole is much greater than the sum of our parts. Numerous organisations and individuals played their part.
“Can I thank everyone that supported the campaign. Such a close result, with an epic race to the finish line, really shows that every single vote counted! I also want to thank Heathrow Airport and VisitBritain for providing us with this opportunity. Heathrow Airport is a critically important hub for the region, with BA carrying close to half a million passengers a year, making it our biggest single airline service.”
Sarah Stewart, chief executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “The whole region really rallied behind the competition and there was a tremendous last push to secure a win for the North East.
“It was evident from all of the social media activity that there is a great sense of pride in the region and it was this passion that really made the difference in the eleventh hour; we literally pipped Northern Ireland to the post with just a few hundred extra votes!
“£1m worth of free advertising at one of the world’s busiest airports will provide a significant boost, profiling the region to potential visitors and investors from around the globe.”
North East Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive, James Ramsbotham, said: “The fact that we gained 10,000 votes on the final day, bridging a significant gap to win in the final minute of the competition was hugely dramatic and is another example of how the north east mobilises for the greater good and how proud we are of our magnificent region. The efforts of people and businesses across social media over the last two weeks have been absolutely amazing.
“Securing £1m of free marketing at one of the world’s largest airports can provide a significant boost to the north east visitor economy and provide us with the opportunity to showcase the North East and all its many attractions to people from across the globe.”
Joss Croft, marketing director at VisitBritain said: “Every vote really did count in this competition as the decision went right to the wire with over 40,000 votes registered in just a few weeks.
“I was delighted to see such collective campaigning across the winning region with tweets from Newcastle United FC, Sunderland AFC, local airports and the north east’s tourism industry all urging locals to get behind their area. It clearly worked, and now the beauty of the north east will be seen by millions of overseas visitors each day as part of VisitBritain’s GREAT campaign.”
Heathrow’s 12 month advertising partnership with VisitBritain, worth £4m, started in March and is designed to inspire passengers to explore further afield during their visit, or on future trips.
The first three months of the partnership, promoted the previously flood hit areas of Devon, Cornwall, Llanddwyn Island (Wales Coast Path) and Glastonbury, to show they were back on track and open for business.
The second round of adverts that went live in June and are currently live until August were chosen to coincide with the Tour de France Grand Départ, illustrating the natural beauty of Yorkshire’s celebrated countryside, as well as the region’s retail and architectural strengths.