TAKE That have helped make Sunderland a tourist hot spot, says a city hotel boss.
Website Hotels.com saw interest in accommodation on Wearside jump by almost seven times last month – and Wylam Leisure boss Tony Griffiths is in no doubt that the band’s announcement of two extra gigs in the summer is behind the surge in demand.
The website says the number of searches for hotels in Sunderland was up by a massive 688 per cent on December 2009.
Hotels.com put Wearside’s popularity as a destination down to visiting football fans or the bad weather which severely affected the region last month.
Alison Couper, communications director for the website, said: “It’s always great to see UK destinations making up the most searched-for locations and Sunderland appears to be one of December’s hot spots, with a large increase in hotel inquiries compared to this time last year, possibly due to the pre-Christmas snow.”
But hotel owner Tony Griffiths said he didn’t agree.
He said: “It can only be the concerts.”
Wylam Leisure runs the Pullman Lodge, at Seaburn, and the Queen Vic, in Monkwearmouth, and has been inundated with calls from eager concert-goers.
Take That will kick off their Progress Live tour at the Stadium of Light with gigs on May 27, 28, 30 and 31, before American rockers Kings of Leon roll into town in June.
Tony said: “We are full but we have had people saying ‘Can you give me a call if anyone cancels for any reason’.
“We have got 10 people on our waiting list but we could have had 1,000 from the number of calls we’ve had.”
Tony believes establishing the Stadium of Light as a major concert venue – this is the third year running the ground has hosted concerts, after Pink last year and Take That and Oasis in 2009 – will send a powerful message about Sunderland’s suitability as a visitor attraction.
“We were going to tear the Pullman down, build a big hotel and then hopefully sell it on to another operator,” he said.
“But the problem we had was trying to convince a big hotel chain to invest in Sunderland.
“I had a very hard time trying to convince them they would be full for more than just 18 Saturdays a year.
“But now if people are looking at Sunderland, we can show them they are not just going to be full during the football season.
“We have got other things going on – we have got the airshow, we have got the concerts.”
Dozens of city businesses attended a North East Chamber of Commerce meeting at the Stadium of Light earlier this week to hear detailed plans for maximising the concerts’ effect on Wearside’s economy outlined.
See tomorrow’s Echo for more.
To advertise your business free to concert-goers, visit www.safcconcerts.com