2014 was another busy year for NewcastleGateshead Initiative. Guardian readers voted us ‘favourite UK city’, we attracted 29 new businesses to locate here and secured conference business worth £1m+. We’ve captured these and many more highlights in our Annual Review and are busy planning for an equally exciting 2015.
Everything we do as an organisation remains focused on changing perceptions and creating positive profile in order to attract visitors, major conferences and events, new investment and jobs. Our objective is economic growth – it’s that simple.
In 2015 we’ll continue to market NewcastleGateshead and the wider region on a national and international stage; to inspire people to visit, and to live, learn, work and invest here. We couldn’t to this alone. A collaborative approach is critical and the ongoing support of our 170 private sector partners, right across the region, remains invaluable, as does that of Gateshead Council and Newcastle City Council.
To talk to us about partnership, forthcoming activity or ideas for collaboration in the year ahead, please contact one of the team
As you may have spotted already, we’ve revamped our visitor website (hyperlink to homepage) to improve user experience, feature more engaging content and ensure it’s easy to navigate on a desktop, mobile or tablet. Attracting over 1.5 million unique visitors a year, and listed in The Sunday Times’ top ten destination websites in the world, NewcastleGateshead.com remains a key tool in our work to market the destination.
Developed as a joint project by New Mind | tellUs and our digital team, the new site is part of our aim to make sure that visitors to the destination have easy access to timely and relevant information wherever they are and in a format they need.
Research conducted at the start of 2013 identified that 36% of traffic to www.newcastlegateshead.com was viewed via a mobile or tablet. The new site therefore needed to be optimised for these users, taking advantage of high speed broadband and a 4G mobile infrastructure to offer more engaging content including high definition video content. The increased focus on digital advertising will create even more opportunities for NewcastleGateshead Initiative’s partners and other relevant organisations to reach a huge audience.
The previous version of the site, launched in September 2010, had already experienced huge success, having achieved the following results by 2012:
- 1,000,000 unique annual visitors.
- 4,000 unique visitors daily.
- 4,000 mobile app downloads.
- 18,000 Discover Deals downloads.
Visitor favourites from the previous version of the site have been retained including My Kind of Toon featuring tips from passionate locals on things to see and do, Must Sees and the Geordieland Map, an interactive Twitter map helping visitors to explore, investigate and be inspired. The Life in Geordieland blog which previously resided in WordPress has been incorporated into the site too in order to boost the site's search rankings.
Marc Burns, digital marketing manager at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said:
“Our aim is to provide digital communications and content that is easily accessible for visitors on the move as well as helping them to make the most of their stay in our destination. And to deliver that, we need a website that consistently provides inspirational, more relevant and tailored information for every one of our site users, whatever platform they are using.
“New Mind’s vast digital tourism experience, along with our own visitor research, has resulted in a website that fulfils our brief to promote NewcastleGateshead as a leading city break destination, while providing users with fast access to a range of information from where to stay, eat, and drink as well as a guide to the latest news on must-see attractions, events and festivals.”
Managing director of New Mind | tellUs UK, Richard Veal comments:
"From the BALTIC Centre For Contemporary Art to Sage Gateshead and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, NewcastleGateshead has always led the way in contemporary design so it is great to see this design aesthetic reflected on the new website that really makes the most of what the destination has to offer. We are looking forward to working with Marc and the team at NGI to take their digital strategy forward and on to even greater success."
2015 sees the arrival of one of the biggest sporting events in the world in Newcastle and New Year’s Eve celebrations started the Year of Rugby with a stunning Winter Carnival, celebrating the Game and attracting a record audience of over 20,000 people on Newcastle Quayside and thousands more along the parade route.
Rugby World Cup 2015 will see Newcastle take its moment in the sporting spotlight after the spectacle of London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Glasgow’s proud role as host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
To mark this special occasion, the destination’s annual New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival used rugby as the inspiration for an early evening of music, dance, performance and a dazzling firework display, which culminated on Newcastle quayside.
A landmark sign promoting Rugby World Cup 2015 in Newcastle was officially unveiled as part of the carnival festivities. Taking pride of place on the iconic Tyne Bridge, the Rugby World Cup 2015 sign celebrates Newcastle’s role as official Host City of rugby’s biggest event.
Produced by NewcastleGateshead Initiative and outdoor arts organisation Walk the Plank, in partnership with Newcastle City Council Arts Team, the event also welcomed the talents of creative director, Jeanefer Jean-Charles, who has previously played a key role in some of the country’s biggest cultural events including the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Carol Bell, head of culture and major events at NewcastleGateshead Initiative said:
“Rugby World Cup 2015 is the biggest sporting event taking place in the country this year and we wanted to reflect the excitement and anticipation in the city ahead of the Tournament.”
Starting at Monument in Newcastle city centre, the New Year’s Eve Winter Carnival parade culminated in a spectacular firework display using the River Tyne as its backdrop.
NewcastleGateshead has featured prominently in a range of print, online and broadcast media in recent weeks - from US news platform CNN to national Danish newspaper Politiken. The coverage, seen as a result of our PR team’s work in building and maintaining relationships with a host of global journalists, has helped to profile NewcastleGateshead as a vibrant, cultural destination to audiences across the world.
Rugby World Cup 2015 games at St James’ Park have been amongst the most widely referenced in coverage seen about the tournament. The games held in Newcastle have been highlighted as a reason to travel to the UK by American news platform CNN, while The Guardian also suggests Newcastle is one of the best places to enjoy the Rugby World Cup with or without match tickets.
Following a successful Scandinavian group press trip delivered in partnership with VisitBritain in November, we were delighted to see some outstanding coverage in one of Denmark’s leading daily newspapers – Politiken. The journalist enthusiastically suggests a wide range of things to see, do and visit, exclaiming: “Do you need an alternative to London? Newcastle in North East England amazes with futuristic architecture, exclusive nightlife and exquisite cultural experiences”.
Finally, Gateshead came under the spotlight as part of ITV travelogue Richard Wilson on the Road in January. The series explores the country using travel guides originally published in the 1930s. This episode uncovers Gateshead’s most iconic landmarks, from Sage Gateshead to the Angel of the North as well as our partners, Beamish Museum. It’s available to watch on ITV Player until 11 February.
Last year was one of our most successful for attracting press. With the annual travel bloggers conference, Traverse14 in February increasing awareness, our proactive approach to attracting press helped the team support 150 individual journalists throughout 2014.
In line with changes and trends in the marketplace, we’re updating our policy on accommodation promotion. We’ve introduced a more flexible and contemporary range of quality indicators – including Trip Advisor ratings - which maintain our commitment to a first-class experience for visitors but enable a wider range of businesses to get involved with our destination marketing activity.
Accommodation providers who would like to take advantage of our destination marketing activity and platforms must fulfill at least one of the following criteria:
- Graded by either VisitEngland or The AA.
- Achieved a minimum of a 4 star rating on Trip Advisor, based on a minimum of 10 customer reviews (more for larger properties).
- Part of a brand which has its own self certification / inspection scheme – evidence must be provided.
- Recognised or recommended by a reputable accommodation directory e.g. Mr & Mrs Smiths or Johansens (not a paid for listing).
To find out more, please contact Anna Moroney, Partnership Development Executive: firstname.lastname@example.org