Influx of eight million visitors swells Sunderland’s economy by £400million

Sunny Roker on a Sunday morning, taken by Tom Lynn
Sunny Roker on a Sunday morning, taken by Tom Lynn
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Eight million visitors boosted Sunderland’s economy by nearly £400m last year, new figures show.

The research, conducted on behalf of the council, shows that total visitor expenditure was £384,38m, an increase of two per cent on 2013.

One Direction at the Stadium of Light.

One Direction at the Stadium of Light.

It’s been revealed that 8.3 million people visited Sunderland in 2014, an increase of two per cent on 2013. Figures also show an increase of one per cent for jobs supported by tourism, which has risen to 5,108.

Large-scale events were cited as helping to fuel the increase, including War Horse and Lion King at Sunderland Empire Theatre, One Direction and North East Live gigs at Stadium of Light, Sunderland International Airshow and the BP Portrait Award at Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens.

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Coun Paul Watson said: “These figures show how important our assets are. We are a city with a river and seafront, we have museums, we have big events such as the Sunderland International Airshow, we have assets such as the Sunderland Empire, and dozens of other features that attract people here.

“We are a city that a lot of people enjoy and they spend here. With more than 5,000 people employed in the visitor and tourism economy, the visitor sector is strong and looking ahead to events such as the Tall Ships Races in 2018 and a City of Culture bid, we’re all hopeful it continues to grow.

'Joey' the horse, from the stage production of War Horse, pictured outside Sunderland Empire Theatre in High Street West.

'Joey' the horse, from the stage production of War Horse, pictured outside Sunderland Empire Theatre in High Street West.

“Each and every visitor – whether they are day-trippers, shoppers or having an overnight or longer stay – are helping support jobs and businesses in our city. As part of the wider region, and as part of the North East Combined Authority, we all recognise how important visitors are and how this sector is a crucial part of our economy.”

To mark the release of the report, 15 Go North East buses branded with See It Do It Sunderland are taking to the roads.

The See It Do It brand has been running for two years, and is aimed at promoting the city’s attractions.

Coun John Kelly, Sunderland City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Public Health, Wellness and Culture, said: “We have a huge variety of visitor attractions across our city. From the fantastic seafront, historic buildings and new public spaces to award-winning parks, museums and nationally important art exhibitions.

Guests attending an exhibition of winners from one of the world's most prestigious global art competitions, the BP Portrait Award 2014.

Guests attending an exhibition of winners from one of the world's most prestigious global art competitions, the BP Portrait Award 2014.

“We attract millions of visitors, we are rightly proud of what we have to offer, and one of the easiest ways to get around the city is by public transport.

“Go North East is the largest bus company in Sunderland, our partner organisation, and we’re working together on seeing that more people can visit and support our city, and use the buses too.

“The See It Do It buses are going to be on some of the busiest Go North East cross-city routes. If you haven’t already, then I’d encourage everyone to get on a bus, take the time to have a look at parts of the city they may have driven past dozens of times, and forget about those worries on where to park the car.”

The first of the 15 buses will be launched today at Barnes Park as part of a fun day, taking place from 10am to 4pm, which includes bouncy castle, slide and soft play, face painting, a magician, a balloon modeller, bubble entertainer, free ice cream, free coffee, a chance to win free travel and entertainment from Metro Radio.

The branded buses will operate along the 35/36 services between Boldon Asda/Town End Farm, Castletown, Hylton Riverside, Southwick, City Centre, Royal Hospital, East Herrington, Herrington Burn, Newbottle, Houghton & Low Moorsley or Chester-le-Street.

Stephen King, head of marketing and retail, said: “The See It Do It routes covers some of the busiest routes across, through and into Sunderland. “Using the brand helps give an extra local identity to the 15 buses, is a marker of our commitment and, most importantly, is reminding people that there’s always lots to see and do in Sunderland.