North East Connected

Spring in the step at tourism conference

Screen Shot 2016-05-01 at 16.31.31Scores of tourism businesses from across the county attended Visit County Durham’s annual spring conference – an event which marked the organisation’s tenth anniversary milestone.

The business networking event, held at Headlam Hall Hotel yesterday, brought together 65 delegates including industry experts, business owners and operators, destination managers and visitor service providers.

The conference was an opportunity to reflect on VCD’s achievements over the past ten years and a chance to look ahead to the future of the destination.

Delegates heard from a range of speakers including Ivor Stolliday, chairman of VCD, who spoke about the organisation’s key achievements to the present day and talked about exciting developments to come. Attendees also heard from tourism industry experts Colette Walker of Blue Sail Marketing on overseas marketing and Kevin Kaley of Tourism UK Ltd on holiday trends.

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “The spring conference was a great success and a fitting opportunity to mark our ten-year anniversary, a milestone achievement for Visit County Durham. It is wonderful to see how the organisation has grown from a fledgling destination management organisation to the nationally-respected destination management organisation it is today.”

The conference also saw the official launch of VCD’s Durham Tourism Superstar 2016 award, a competition which recognises the dedication of those working in the county’s tourism industry that go above and beyond the call of duty.

It is VCD’s third annual competition, run in association with VisitEngland and the Northern Echo. In a coup for the county, the last two winners of Durham Tourism Superstar have also gone on to win the national prize. Lilian Groves, a tour guide at Durham Cathedral, won this year’s prize, whilst Matthew Henderson, who works at Beamish Museum, won the previous year.

Helping to launch the awards were VCD board members Sandra Whitefield, who runs award-winning Low Urpeth Farm at Chester-le-Street, and Cllr Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economic regeneration and culture.

Cllr Foster said: “It’s been a brilliant two years for us. The award wins have helped to raise the profile of Durham and put us on the national stage – shining a light on our great visitor welcome. Attractions, activities, eateries and events are all important but who is the person who will turn a great holiday into a fantastic one?”

Sandra Whitefield added: “It’s a great scheme to promote Durham and is open to everyone working in tourism, whether it be a large hotel or attraction or small coffee shop.”

Entrants can download a nomination form at: or by The closing date for nominations is 10 June.

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