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Ford and Etal

Be bold, different, business told at sustainable tourism event

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  March 7, 2012 | 0 Comments
Jeff Sutheran, Manda Brookman, and James Joicey of Ford and Etal Estates

Jeff Sutheran, Manda Brookman, and James Joicey of Ford and Etal Estates at the sustainable tourism conference in Berwick

Tourism businesses in Northumberland have been encouraged to “dare to be different” and embrace new ways of supporting one another and the visitor economy.

The message was delivered by Manda Brookman, director of the Cornwall Sustainable Tourism Network (CoaST), at a two-day sustainable tourism conference in Berwick on Tuesday and Wednesday this week.

At the event it was announced that the Northumbrian sustainable tourism initiative will become a partner with CoaST. Jeff Sutheran, a force behind the Northumbrian initiative, said: “CoaST has generously offered its www.coastproject.co.uk resources to us. The information on the CoaST website will be shared. In effect, they are welcoming us as partners.”

Delivering her presentation, Manda encouraged the almost 90 attendees to be “positive deviants” and to be confident about embracing sustainable tourism. “Change can happen when a lot of people join together,” she told the audience.

She then explained the ethos behind Cornwall’s successful network, and then facilitated and chaired a series of presentations from experts on topics that affect tourism businesses.

Representatives from Northumberland County Council, the Coast AONB, Northumberland Tourism and other agencies were present. But by far the majority of attendees were individual businesses keen to deal with real issues, such as concerns about rising energy costs, transportation issues, and issues around building insulation. Many people came forward to respond to these concerns and to offer expert advice and support in response to these concerns.

Businesses at the sustainable tourism conference

Business people gather at the sustainable tourism conference

Jeff, chair of the North Northumberland Tourism Association, explained: “Sustainable tourism means developing the place where we live and work in order to improve the quality of life and quality of offering for the visitor.

“If businesses know more about the area, its food offering, and what kind of partnerships can be developed, then we can keep the money that’s spent on tourism in the local area. Sustainable tourism is about celebrating the things that are made here. We aim to sustain that which can be continued or maintained, and continue to develop tourism into the future.”

He described the two-day event as “buzzing with energy” and a “very creative process”.

“Moving forward, the key thing is communication. We’ll be setting up a communication network and partnering up with CoaST,” said Jeff. “The next thing is food – both using and promoting. We all want to enhance the local food offering and make sure that food is on the menu for visitors to sample.

“We aim to up the visitor offering by helping businesses understand what is on the doorstep, so for example some people will be arranging familiarisation visits and businesses will be working together and partnering up on many different things.”

Manda said that the Northumbrian initiative is unique due to its grassroots support and hunger for change. Usually she is invited by county councils and official organisations to give presentations, but she said that this is the first time she has encountered an initiative made of small local businesses keen to begin networking and create change.

Jeff said he was “overwhelmed by the response from people at the event. It’s just been breathtaking, there are so many creative ideas.”

Pat Scott, chair of the Coast AONB, which helped support the conference, described it as “very inspirational.”

Organisers emphasised the fact that although the initiative is rooted in Northumberland, it is Northumbrian and therefore open all parts of the region. Businesses in the Scottish Borders, Cumbria, County Durham and Tyne and Wear are welcome to be a part of this new sustainable tourism movement.

The event was organised by the North Northumberland Tourism Association, with support from the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership and the Northumberland National Park Authority.

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