HARTLEPOOL’S biggest ever event has struck gold.
The town’s leg of The Tall Ships Races has been judged the best tourism event in the North-East.
Today, just hours after collecting the gold award at a ceremony last night, Hartlepool Mayor Stuart Drummond said: “We were delighted.
“I have always professed what a great event it was and the profile that it brought to the town was phenomenal.
“This is well-deserved recognition for everyone who worked so hard to make it a success.”
The races, which were project managed by Michelle Daurat, were short-listed for the Tourism Event of the Year title at the North East England Tourism Awards.
It was one of 15 prizes handed out last night at the Stadium of Light, in Sunderland.
The Tall Ships Races saw 970,000 people converge on Hartlepool and figures show that 75 per cent of them were from outside town.
The event generated around £26.5m for the local economy.
The Tall Ships Races won the tourism event title ahead of its rivals, the Extraordinary Measures art exhibition at Belsay Hall in Northumberland, which took silver and the third placed Evolution Weekender festival which saw top music acts such as Paolo Nutini and the Futureheads come to Newcastle and Gateshead.
There were other honours as well for the Hartlepool area.
Wynyard Hall Country House Hotel took silver in the Small Hotel of the Year category behind the Doxford Hall Hotel, in Chathill, Northumberland, with the bronze award going to the Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa.
Wynyard Hall also collected a second award when weddings manager Kelly Smith, 24, from the Hart Lane area of Hartlepool, took silver for the Outstanding Customer Service award, behind gold winner William Salve from the Linden Hall Golf and Country Club, with Kate Carnaby from Sodexo Prestige at Newcastle United taking third.
The full line-up was revealed by regional development agency One North East.
Other winners included Rockcliffe Hall Hotel (Large Hotel of the Year), Washington Wetland Centre (Small Visitor Attraction of Year), Beamish Museum (Large Visitor Attraction of the Year), and The National Glass Centre at the University of Sunderland (Best Tourism Experience of the Year).
Geoff Hodgson, chairman of the North East Tourism Advisory Board, said: “The quality of this year’s shortlisted finalists has shone through the judging process – their commitment to providing a first class experience for their customers and constantly improving their business is what helps makes North-East England such a great place to visit.”
Hartlepool now goes on to represent North-East England in the national Visit England Awards for Excellence next Spring.
Tourism is a major part of the region’s economy, it is worth almost £4bn to the local economy and employs just over 60,000 people.