A Christmas message from our Chief Executive

Sarah Green, Chief Executive, NewcastleGateshead Initiative:

As we approach the festive season and look forward to a new year, I would like to celebrate the achievements and exciting projects announced in 2021 which represent a significant vote of confidence in our region as a place to invest.  From a £50m City Centre Transformation Plan, a 5* hotel, HMRC accommodating approximately 9,000 staff in the new Pilgrim Street development, the £100m 14 storey Bank House Scheme, the Pipewell Quay development announcing new tenants, the reimagining of Gateshead Riverside Park, and the approval from government for two multi-million-pound bids to build a new leisure centre in the West End of Newcastle and to renovate some of our city’s most iconic and treasured assets, the Grainger Market and Eldon Square. 

The city has welcomed three particularly significant, strategic and transformational investments, including: the BBC opening its brand-new tech hub in Newcastle and announcing the city as its 2022 City of Comedy, enabling works beginning for the landmark £260m NewcastleGateshead Quays development which is set to boost the local economy by £69m per year, and the investment into Newcastle United Football Club which bolsters our global profile and has the potential to drive significant international footfall to the region. 

Our tourism industry has shown the utmost resilience in the face of a world pandemic, and we continue to provide vital support to allow it to repair and flourish. During challenging times, our tourism and hospitality businesses demonstrated their strength and agility to continue to provide a safe service for the region; from restaurants running online cookery classes and takeaway services, to local tour guides becoming online history teachers. 

The pandemic brought about lots of barriers to the recovery of the industry, which we continue to identify and work towards overcoming. After listening to the needs of the regions’ businesses, we launched a project to help them recruit new staff and address skills shortages in the sector, through digital campaigns and industry consultations. 

We worked with the sector to create exciting packages and unique consumer offers which were bookable via TXGB, a VisitEngland backed business-to-business platform that connects tourism suppliers to both domestic and international distributors.  

Our focus shifted as we identified the need to showcase alternative aspects of the region such as our outdoor and active offer in response to the change in visitor behaviour, as well as the need to highlight the fantastic food and drink offer in the North East. When it was safe to do so, we hosted travel influencers, food bloggers, and journalists to show them the true spirit of the region which gained national media coverage and content across a multitude of channels.  

The collaborative nature of our work was recognised at government level, and we were one of only two DMO’s asked to be on the Tourism Industry Council, as well as one of only nine bodies asked to facilitate a round table for the DMO Review. This means we can take the concerns of the region’s businesses directly to government, enabling the region’s voices to be heard. 

Every single project we embark upon is dedicated to making lasting social and economic impact. We could not do this without the support of our partners who work closely with us to maximise our impact as drivers and enablers of economic growth.  

By working in synergy with our partners and stakeholders, we’ve seen Newcastle named as the ‘UK’s favourite place’ as well as the ‘UK’s smartest city’ in the global Smart City Index, and Rough Guides placed Newcastle as one of the ‘best second cities’ in the world, alongside the likes of Mumbai and Barcelona. The North East region has been in the spotlight on national television thanks to the Hairy Bikers, and even Mary Berry had a flavour of what we have to offer with her BBC programme ‘Love to Cook’ visiting our iconic sites.  

The support we provide will continue into the New Year and we look forward to the North East England Tourism Awards taking place in 2022. The awards will not only showcase the plethora of fantastic businesses and individuals from across the sector, but give well-deserved recognition of the strength and hard work that they have put in. 

Next year will see NGI using insight and intelligence to deliver strategic sector support across our high-growth sectors including tech and digital, life sciences, business and professional services and offshore and marine, which will continue to attract inward investment, national and international visitors, strengthen our eco systems and feed our economy.  

We will be engaging our partners in developing a Destination Management Plan which will inform the strategy for visitor economy growth by 2030, continue to lobby government for support for our tourism and hospitality businesses, and we will be seeking to maximise all opportunities that are provided by the DMO Review and Tourism Recovery Plan, as well as leading a delegation to MIPIM, the world’s biggest real estate show to exhibit our investment and development opportunities on a global scale.   

We are welcoming new staff thanks to funding sources such as the North of Tyne Combined Authority, which means we will have dedicated investment sector specialists in digital, life sciences, corporate services, green energy and visitor economy. This will enable NGI to shout even louder about our spectacular regional offer, reaching new specialist audiences and being more pro-active in national and international relevant sector discussions. 

I’d like to say a huge thank you to every single person who has worked with us to champion our region, its culture, and its people, and to create an authentic voice that makes us stand out from the crowd, and ultimately creating a better place for our people to live. 

I’m very proud of what we have collectively achieved this year. Next year, we must be even more ambitious and use the strategic transformational projects to develop the narrative of our city on a global stage and to position NewcastleGateshead as a distinctive place to enjoy, stay and invest. 

Wishing you all a happy and safe festive period.