For the prestigious North East England Tourism Awards 2024

Northumberland National Park Authority is thrilled to announce its nomination for not one, but two prestigious awards at the upcoming North East England Tourism Awards 2024.

The North East England Tourism Awards have long been a beacon for recognising the most diverse and innovative businesses and visitor attractions in the region, exemplifying the vibrant visitor economy. Northumberland National Park Authority has secured two nominations in the coveted categories of ‘Accessible and Inclusive Tourism,’ and ‘Unsung Hero’ which highlights individuals who have made a remarkable contribution to North East tourism.

Duncan Wise, Visitor Development Officer at Northumberland National Park Authority is the nominee for the ‘Unsung Hero’ award, recognising his efforts in balancing the delicate task of encouraging visitors to explore the unique and special qualities of Northumberland National Park while safeguarding its precious ecosystems, a role he has been dedicated to for an astounding 23 years.

Duncan’s most celebrated achievement is the establishment of the largest Dark Sky Park in Europe, a collaborative effort with Kielder Forest Park. Northumberland’s Dark Sky status has not only brought in over £25 million in revenue for the local economy but has also extended the tourism season in Northumberland, drawing in visitors from across the world.

With growing public interest, driven by the allure of the Northumberland Dark Sky Park as well as the Authority’s core purpose to connect more and different people with the National Park’s natural and historic landscapes, Northumberland National Park Authority has invested heavily in creating a wide-range of accessible and inclusive opportunities for people to experience the National Park, updating and improving visitor facilities and developing new learning and engagement programmes.

These enhancements have brought about an enriched visitor experience, providing opportunities for a wider range of people to access and enjoy connecting with nature, culture, and heritage for their wellbeing. Innovations such as audio-visual interpretation have made the National Park’s historical and natural wonders accessible to a broader audience, while interactive exhibitions and sensory experiences provide opportunities for people with diverse needs. Moreover, the National Park has improved disabled access to key visitor sites including The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, Walltown Country Park and Cawfields, and is leading the way online through a fully accessible website.

Rosie Thomas, Director of Business Development at Northumberland National Park Authority expressed her delight, saying, “We are honoured to be recognised through these nominations, which not only reward the incredible work of our staff, such as Duncan, volunteers, and partners, but also acknowledge the valuable contribution Northumberland National Park Authority makes to tourism in the North East. The nominations reflect our commitment to ensuring Northumberland National Park is a welcoming place for all.”

The North East Tourism Awards ceremony will be held in Spring 2024, with many of the winners going on to represent the region at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.

Northumberland International Dark Skies Park is also celebrating its tenth year and Northumberland National Park is marking the anniversary with a series of special exhibitions and supporting programmes titled ‘Dark Skies Matter.’

The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre, opened in 2017 by HRH King Charles III, has already attracted over half a million visitors, contributing to the creation of 67.5 FTE jobs and an impressive £2.2 million GVA per annum during its first five years.