High praise for tourism centres

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TOURIST hot spots in Hartlepool have been praised after a recent round of inspections.

Hartlepool Art Gallery, in Christ Church, and Hartlepool Maritime Experience (HME), off Marina Way, were both inspected by Visit England, the England tourist board.

It is the sixth year that the sites have been included in the Visitor Attraction Quality Assurance Scheme (VAQAS), which is co-ordinated by Visit England.

The recent assessment has resulted in the tourist sites achieving quality assured visitor attraction status.

Independent councillor Hilary Thompson, portfolio holder for culture, leisure and tourism, met recently to discuss the results of the VAQAS assessment.

A report about the art gallery said: “This attraction has greatly improved since the last assessment, as enthusiastic staff welcome and inform the visitor in a knowledgeable manner”.

The cafe and reception areas were also praised for their staff, selection of products and appearance.

It added that the exhibitions were of a “very high quality with good interpretation”.

Meanwhile, the summary of the HME site said: “The Maritime Experience offers just that, an experience.

“The visitor will remember the attention to detail in the street and shops which gives significant attention to detail to achieve authenticity.”

Inspectors praised the costumed staff, the gift shop, and the layout of the site.

The report added: “Overall this quality attraction is maintained to a high standard, the heavy footfall will take its toll but there was a noticed improvement upon the last assessment.

“The Hartlepool Maritime Experience offered visitors an overall very good quality experience.”

Coun Thompson said: “This is a very positive report, especially the art gallery.

“The final comment described it as “well managed gallery that is a joy to visit” - what more could you want?”

The report did highlight some areas for improvement, including improving the standard of fixtures and fittings in the toilets at both venues.