A TOURISM boom at several top Hartlepool attractions has been put down to the effect of The Tall Ships Races.
The Museum of Hartlepool, in Maritime Avenue, saw its visitor figures for 2010 jump 35 per cent from the previous year, from 93,290 to 126,398, while 71.2 per cent more people walked through the doors of the Heugh Gun Battery Museum, in Moor Terrace, on the Headland, from 4,089 to 7,000.
Nationally, figures by tourist board VisitEngland show admissions to attractions rose just three per cent, with free sites increasing by six per cent, but paid attractions suffering an overall one per cent decline.
Michelle Daurat, Hartlepool Borough Council’s events and visitor service manager, said last August’s Tall Ships Races being held in the town has had a big effect on the profile of Hartlepool with a million people enjoying the event.
Increases can also be seen at Hartlepool Art Gallery, in Church Square, which added 19.1 per cent onto its figures, from 59,048 to 70,344, and there was a 10.7 per cent rise at St Hilda’s Church Visitor Centre, from 2,530 to 2,800.
Ms Daurat added: “We had such an exciting and far reaching marketing campaign that brought a million people to the town, and who knows how many more could not make it, but heard about Hartlepool.
“There have been a lot of passionate people putting their time and effort into attracting people to Hartlepool and that work goes on.
“The tall ships was such a big, high profile project, so it is a challenge for ourselves to get visitors to come back again and again, but we are doing a good job and are excited about events we have coming up.”
Tourism boost was also seen elsewhere in the area with recently restored Hardwick Park, near Sedgefield, having 58 per cent more visitors, a rise from 250,000 to 395,000, and Peterlee Parachute Centre’s figure climbed by 37.8 per cent, from 7,400 to 10,200.
The majority of the top 20 free attractions in the country were museums or art galleries, with the British Museum retaining its top spot with 5.8m visitors.
The Tower of London topped the paid for category with 2.4m visits with Flamingo Land Theme Park & Zoo, in North Yorkshire, making the top five.
James Berresford, VisitEngland’s chief executive, said: “England offers some fantastic free attractions and great affordable days out providing anyone holidaying at home this year with an experience in this country that is both enriching and great value.
“Competition on the world stage is tough and it is the quality of our attractions that will help to ensure that people come back time and time again to visit something new, exciting and unique to England.”
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