Tourists spend £400million in Sunderland as Snowdogs, football and Billy Elliot help boost visitor numbers

Making sandcastles on Seaburn Beach in Sunderland. Picture submitted by Sunderland City Council
Making sandcastles on Seaburn Beach in Sunderland. Picture submitted by Sunderland City Council
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The number of visitors to Sunderland - and the amount of cash they spend when they're here - have risen thanks to special and big annual events held in the city.

New figures have revealed that visitor numbers, visitor spend and the number of people employed by tourism in the city have all increased.

The statistics show 8.24million people visited Sunderland in 2016, up three per cent on 2015. And they spent £399million - also up three per cent from the previous year.

Sunderland City Council said 5,040 jobs were supported by tourism in Sunderland as of 2016, an increase of two percent on 2015.

The 2016 figures include:

:: Away fans attending SAFC home matches (not including home fans)

:: Retail spend is included in the figures

:: Attraction visitor figures and event attendance figures

:: Hotel occupancy and bed stock figures count towards the overnight visitors.

Large scale events that took place in 2016 in Sunderland included:

:: The Great North Snowdogs

:: Sunderland International Airshow

:: Sunderland Illuminations

:: Beyonce and England v Australia football at Stadium of Light

:: Billy Elliot at Sunderland Empire

The council received the figures through the STEAM (Scarborough Economic Activity Model).

Council leader Paul Watson said: “I’m delighted that the number of people visiting our city is increasing, and that the economic impact of their visits, in terms of money spent in the city and jobs created, is also rising.

"These figures show how important our assets are. We have a wide variety of visitor attractions, from our fantastic seafront and award-winning parks to historic buildings, museums, theatres and world class events.

He added: "Every visitor – whether they are day-trippers, having an overnight stay or visiting for a specific event – is helping support jobs and businesses in our city, and we recognise that tourism is a crucial part of our economy.

"There is a huge amount of work taking place to transform Sunderland, with work on new roads, hotels and cultural venues all underway, plus a strong City of Culture bid and The Tall Ships Races 2018 to look forward to, we look forward to welcoming more and more visitors to the city in the future.”

Ben Phillips, general manager of the Sunderland Empire, said, “We are delighted to see the growth in tourism figures for Sunderland in 2016.

"The theatre continues to attract audiences from outside of the city, with the hugely successful Billy Elliot the Musical the highlight of the year. We have a very exciting season coming up, with the likes of Mamma Mia, Shrek and the RSC’s Matilda the Musical which will all bring in visitors from Sunderland and beyond, which contributes to the further success of the city.

"The strong growth is really encouraging as the city works towards City of Culture 2021. The theatre is just one element of what’s available across Sunderland and it’s really exciting that all the hard work of our cultural partners is paying off”.