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England’s Historic Cities’ consortium, which includes Visit County Durham, has secured a £1m investment from the Discover England Fund for an innovative new project to encourage more US visitors to explore regional England. The Collection brings history to life through story-telling enhanced by augmented reality and will feature itineraries that link the cities by rail, making it easy to plan and book a multi-destination trip. Delivered through the historic cities app, it will act as a central point for local information that highlights places to eat and stay alongside trips, tours and travel options. www.heritagecities.com

Marking the first time that England’s Historic Cities have collaborated in this way, The Collection is one of a number of successful projects to receive funding from the UK Government’s £40 million Discover England Fund. The Fund is administered by VisitEngland and aims to ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry, by offering world-class English tourism products to the right customers at the right time. The Fund is a central government funded programme of activity, supported by match funding by partners in the public and private sectors.

Ivor Stolliday, Chair of Visit County Durham, said: “Heritage is a huge draw for US visitors to England. The Collection will enable Durham City and the wider county to share our amazing stories through cutting edge technology, and bring Durham wider exposure to this important international market.”

The Collection project is being managed by a board of consortium members. Michelle Gorman, Managing Director of Visit County Durham, is a project board member and lead for the Welcome Programme.

Michelle said: “We are thrilled to have secured investment from the Discover England Fund. England’s Historic Cities represents some of the best experiences that England has to offer to international visitors and we can’t wait to bring them to the attention of the US market. The consortium has a strong track record of working together but this is the most ambitious project we have tackled together. We are grateful for the support of our partners and look forward to showing the results of our work.”

Joining the 13 members of England’s Historic Cities for this project are Truro and Worcester and the City of London. The project is also supported by London & Partners, English Heritage and UK Inbound.

London & Partners Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Cooke, said: “London & Partners is delighted to be partnering with England’s Historic Cities’ consortium to promote England’s rich cultural heritage to an international audience. As both the gateway to these cities and a unique reflection of England’s history in its own right, London is central to the visitor experience. We look forward to working with the consortium to help visitors to make the most of London and their onward journeys throughout England.”

Durham is set to gain from a second successful VisitEngland Discover England Fund bid targeting the US market. Working with Marketing Manchester and destinations from across the North, Durham will benefit from the positioning of Manchester Airport as an international gateway to the North. This project will increase the volume of visitors coming through Manchester Airport by creating itineraries that showcase the city, and excursions that open up the North of England.

VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, said: “The calibre of submissions reflects the innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape. The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading the economic benefits of tourism across England.

“England’s Historic Cities’ winning project uses augmented reality to place the user at the heart of England’s history, making visiting a compelling proposition.”

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