As the North East prepares to host Great Exhibition of the North, new figures released today (Monday 18 June) have highlighted the importance of tourism to the local economy.

The industry continues to see significant growth, with a total of 18.03 million people visiting NewcasteGateshead last year – up 3 per cent from 2016.

Tourism continues to be the fourth largest sector in the North East, highlighting the importance of visitors to the wider economy. The figures also reveal that tourists visiting NewcastleGateshead in 2017 contributed £1.62 billion to the economy, an increase of 3 per cent from 2016. 

The figures are estimated using the Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Model (STEAM)1 and show a 3 per cent increase from 2016 in the value and volume of visitors with 15.9 million day visits injecting £1 billion into the economy.

Overnight visitors stayed for a total of 5.19 million nights and contributed £568m to the local economy, an increase of 3 per cent from 2016.

As well as making a large contribution to the economy, tourism continues to be a significant employer in NewcastleGateshead – in 2017, 15,481 were directly employed in tourism, up 3 per cent from 2016. When indirect employment in the supply chain is taken into account, employment has risen by 4 per cent to 19,733.

Sarah Stewart, chief executive at destination management and marketing organisation, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “On the eve of the biggest event in England in 2018 opening in NewcastleGateshead, it’s great news that the number of visitors to the region has continued to increase, as the variety of what the destination has to offer also grows. We saw a number of exciting new venues open in 2017, including cocktail bar and restaurant The Laundrette, French restaurant Côte Brasserie and the Travelodge on Newcastle’s Quayside, thanks in part to the increase in visitors to the region.

“Our major events, attractions and experiences, alongside our growing and evolving food and drink offering, ensure that NewcastleGateshead is an attractive visitor destination.” 

Great Exhibition of the North will give the tourism industry a further boost with the event expected to reach an audience of three million people, including more than one million visitors from across the UK and overseas, and bring £184 million into the North East economy.  

Organisers are putting the finishing touches on preparations for the Exhibition which begins on Friday 22 June with a spectacular opening event. The Exhibition will run for 80 days in NewcastleGateshead over the summer, celebrating great art and culture, design and innovation from across the North.

As well as Great Exhibition of the North, NewcastleGateshead is hosting a number of other major events that will continue to attract visitors to the region. Looking towards next year, the region will play host to two major sporting events – the World Transplant Games and the European Professional Club Rugby Finals.

Early figures for 2018 see a continuation of the upward trend in visitor number, with a 3 per cent increase in visits to paid attractions. New venues set to open by the end of the year include; luxury aparthotel County Aparthotel, shipping container village By The River Brew Co and alpine style bar and restaurant Antler. 

Stewart added: “While visitor numbers increased again last year, we’ve already seen impressive statistics for 2018 and Great Exhibition of the North is set to be a milestone event for the region. After the Exhibition there are many other great events happening that will continue to bring visitors to the region and looking into next year we have two major sporting events which will see supporters travel from all over the world.”


STEAM Headlines


  • 18.03 million people visited NewcastleGateshead in 2017. This was up by 3% on 2016.
  • The number of days visitors spent in the destination also grew on 2016 (+3%) to 21.08 million visitor days.
  • Visitor expenditure in NewcastleGateshead now stands at £1.62 billion, up by 3% on 2016.
  • The number of people directly employed in tourism in NewcastleGateshead in 2017 stood at 15,481, up by 3% on 2016.  When indirect employment in the supply chain is taken into account total employment stands at 19,733, up by 4% on 2016.
  • The number of overnight visitors to NewcastleGateshead stands at 2.14 million with these visitors spending 5.19 million nights in the destination. These visitors spend £568 million up by 3% on 2016.
  • Day visitor levels have risen by 3% to 15.9 million, with expenditure levels growing by the same rate to £1 billion.
  • The average spend per trip by overnight visitors is £206.72 compared to £230.39 in 2016, while the average spend per day visitor was £49.00, compared to £47.74 in 2016.
  • The Food and Drink sector accounts for 33% of all expenditure and 37% of all employment.
  • 88% of all visits are day visits while these visitors account for 65% of expenditure.