NEW figures reveal that tourism is worth a whopping £48m a year to the Hartlepool economy.
Councillors in Hartlepool say the importance of tourism – which brings thousands of visitors into town every year – cannot be underestimated.
The report by Hartlepool Borough Council shows the tourism economy has rocketed from £22.8m in 1997 to £47.9m 12 years later.
Popular sites include the beaches and sand dunes at Seaton Carew, RSPB Saltholme, the bars, restaurants and boats at Hartlepool Marina and the historic Headland, including the Heugh Gun Battery.
Hartlepool’s Maritime Experience, which includes the Museum of Hartlepool, paddle steamer Wingfield Castle, HMS Trincomalee and the historic quayside, also attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Hotels and B&B accommodation also contribute to the figures.
The six-month scrutiny investigation by the council’s neighbourhood services scrutiny forum also found that:
n The Hartlepool tourism economy was worth £47.9m in 2009 compared with £30.2m in 2003 and just £22.8m in 1997.
n There were 728,000 tourists who spent 1.2m days in Hartlepool in 2009.
n There is an estimated 835 people employed in the tourism economy.
The figures do not include The Tall Ships Races, which was held in town last August, and attracted an estimated 970,000 visitors.
Figures show that 75 per cent of them were from outside Hartlepool and the tall ships event generated around £26.5m for the local economy.
The report also found that in 2009, the tourism industry contributed more than £560m to the Tees Valley economy.
Labour councillor Stephen Thomas, who chaired the forum, presented the findings to the council’s cabinet committee.
Coun Thomas, who represents the Dyke House ward, said: “What the scrutiny investigation has shown is that there is a significant contribution to the local economy through tourism and we would like to think that we can build on the success of The Tall Ships Races last year in order to encourage visitors to come back to town.
“I was very pleased with the figures, they were certainly higher than I had anticipated.
“But Hartlepool has a number of assets including Seaton Carew, the marina and the Maritime Experience.
“We must continue our work to promote tourist attractions and events in Hartlepool through traditional means, in addition to other approaches such as social network sites Twitter and Facebook to reach as wide an audience as possible.”
Independent Elwick councillor Hilary Thompson, cabinet member for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “We cannot underestimate the importance of tourism to this area.”
The tourism figures were part of a scrutiny investigation into foreshore management, which included all aspects of Hartlepool’s coastline.
l Mail view: Page 8