TOURISM chiefs say they are working hard to support businesses in a bid to further boost the multi-million pound visitor economy.
The latest available figures show that in 2009 three million visitors to Hartlepool helped generate £118m for the local economy and support 2,000 jobs.
That includes tourists heading to Hartlepool Marina, Seaton Carew, the Headland and the Maritime Experience.
It also takes into account people coming to town for meetings, football matches at Hartlepool United and shoppers to Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.
Officers outlined Hartlepool Borough Council’s support to businesses in the tourism industry at a recent council meeting.
The support includes:
• Increasing the number of restaurants and other businesses in the Eat Campaign. There are 33 eating places featured in the latest guide, which has a print run of 25,000 copies;
• Work is under way on a new What’s Happening Hartlepool publication, which will replace the current Hartlepool Mini Guide and What’s On publications;
• Ongoing work to promote the destinationhartlepool.com website and boost the use of social media;
• Working in closer partnership with other areas, including Durham, to look at raising the profile of Hartlepool through joint marketing,
• Increased network events for hotels and businesses in town and sharing examples of best practice.
The visitor economy was discussed at a joint meeting of the culture, leisure and tourism portfolio and the regeneration, economic development and skills portfolio.
Independent councillor Cath Hill, member for culture, said: “We want to keep this industry going so that people come into the town, use the facilities and help keep Hartlepool people employed.
“Hartlepool is a wonderful place and we have a wonderful product.”
Coun Hill added that the visitor economy was especially important in the current economic climate.
Labour councillor Peter Jackson, member for regeneration, added: “People have a perception of town before they actually come here and when they do they often change their minds.”
Coun Jackson backed officers’ plans to make more use of social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook as they are the most “cost-effective” forms of communicating.
Tourism chiefs say there have been a number of changes in the past six months with the loss of the North-East Tourism Network, led by ONE NorthEast and the area tourism partnership, visitTeesvalley, that will have an impact on the support given to Hartlepool.
Both agencies supported the industry through big budgets, marketing and PR campaigns.
The loss of those agencies means the onus is on councils to support and promote their visitor economy.
Jo Cole, the council’s tourism officer, said: “With tourism contributing so significantly to Hartlepool’s economy, it is now solely the council who remain to continue initiatives to target the visitor economy.”
The 2009 figures come from STEAM (Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor) research, which estimates the value of the visitor economy.
WHAT DO YOU THINK? Email the newsdesk