National Park communities are reaping the benefits of tourism

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Visitors to one of Yorkshire’s national parks have increased following a drive to get more tourists to explore the North York Moors with the industry providing a £582m boost to the local economy.

Tourism is a key part of Yorkshire’s rural economy but two years ago a blueprint was launched to “shout loud” and remind visitors about the beauty and attractions that the national park, which captured the hearts of TV viewers when it was featured in ITV’s Heartbeat, had to offer against a background of dwindling visitors.

Members backed a three-year plan to promote the area, including a national marketing campaign to remind visitors of the beauty of the moors and the latest figures show the decline has been addressed with numbers increasing. In 2014 the national park attracted 7.3m visitors, an increase of 5.2 per cent on the previous year.

Nearly 10,500 are employed in the industry and a 4.2 per cent increase in the economic contribution from tourism was recorded in 2014, compared with 2013, meaning the industry is now worth £582m, according to a report prepared for members of the North York Moors Park Authority, which meets on Monday.

“Tourism is vitally important to the North York Moors area, playing a major role in the economies and fortunes of many of our villages and communities; it is the single largest element of the local economy,” a report prepared for park authority members says.

“Raising the profile of the North York Moors is one of two strategic priorities for the National Park Authority. The development of tourism is a key part of this,” the report adds.

In 2011 tourism was worth £434m to the national park’s economy but prior to the start of the campaign there was evidence its value was declining.

The marketing plan agreed in 2013 included getting businesses to sign up to a tourism network to promote events, using social media to keep people up-to-date and developing better links between those working in the industry.

Catriona McLees, the authority’s head of promotion and tourism, said at the time the campaign’s aim was to remind people exactly what the North York Moors has to offer.

She said: “It’s a lot to do with the fact that we have not shouted loud about who we are. There comes a point where if you are not shouting about it people do tend to forget.”

The report prepared for members adds: “Until recent years tourism in the North York Moors was characterised by multiple brands and a lack of clear identity.”

Members will be told, however, some priorities still remain, including the need to continue building and maintaining relationships with tourism organisations to ensure that visitors from overseas, the UK and from the local region consider visiting and source cash to help to support tourism businesses with grants.

Figures released earlier this year show that visitor boost is not just reflected in the North York Moors National Park, with two hundred thousand more people exploring the Yorkshire Dales National Park last year.

The Yorkshire Dales, according to statistics revealed in April, saw a six per cent hike in the total number of visitors and saw a 3.5 per cent increase in the economic contribution from tourism recorded between 2012 and 2013 .