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‘Friendliest’ UK city has become so popular with over 20million visitors



‘Friendliest’ UK city has become so popular with over 20million visitors

The city of Durham, nestled in the northeast of England, is known for its rich history – home to an 11th-century castle (now the home of Durham University College students) and its famous cathedral between the late 11th and early 12th century.

The city is home to beautiful architecture, winding cobbled streets and a beautiful section of the River Wear which flows throughout, often dotted with hand-built rowing boats in the summer months. Durham is also known for its people, having been previously described by Britons as the “friendliest” city in the UK.

Thanks to these factors and a series of new investments, the city has seen a surge in tourism popularity, following the release of the latest STEAM figures. These calculate the volume and value of the county’s visitor economy. The most recent figures show that Durham has continued to build on the bumper £1bn milestone achieved in 2022, with results showing expenditure rose by 18.8 percent in 2023, to £1.23bn.

According to the report, 20.15 million people visited the county, an increase of 12.5 percent. Durham also recorded a significant leap in day visits, up by 13.7 percent year-on-year, reflecting the impact major developments and investments including The Auckland Project and Beamish Museum have had on attracting visitors to the county.

As a result, the number of people employed in tourism in Durham has also grown, up by 12.4 percent to 13,178 FTEs in 2023, of which 10,559 are directly employed and 2,619 indirectly.

Michelle Gorman, managing director at Visit County Durham said: “We are thrilled with the latest STEAM results, which are a testament to the incredible partnerships across the county that are committed to working together to grow our visitor economy.

“The county has greatly benefited from new attractions and developments over recent years, and with more to come, including New Hall at Locomotion and The Rising at Raby Castle, it puts us in a really strong position for 2024 and beyond.

“However, we acknowledge that increasing the percentage of overnight stays, along with growing our overseas visitor numbers, are where significant change will come, and we will continue to work in partnership across the region to realise these opportunities.”

Durham has long been considered a friendly and welcoming area, with American-British travel author Bill Bryson describing it as a “wonderful – a perfect little city” and home to “the best cathedral on planet earth” in his 1995 book Notes from a Small Island.

In 2023, The Telegraph named it one of the best UK city breaks, and Condé Nast Traveller magazine readers voted it the ‘Best city in the UK’. The university, which sits at the heart of the city, attracts students from around the world, and one of its selling points is the metropolis surrounding it.

At the heart of the city is Durham Cathedral – part of its UNESCO World Heritage site. Rich in Romanesque architecture, the beautiful vaulted ceilings make for the perfect location to witness an angelic choir practice. The Cathedral also hosts multiple other events throughout the year, including sing-a-long performances and live orchestras.

In July, visitors are expected to flock to the city for the annual Durham Miners Association (DMA) Gala which has been a major event in the city since 1871. The festival takes place on the second Saturday of July and pays homage to the coal mining heritage of the Durham Coalfield, which stretched throughout the traditional County of Durham.

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