New tourism chief aims to boost park visitor numbers

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A NEW tourism chief has been appointed at the North York Moors National Park Authority as it prepares to launch a major marketing campaign in a bid to reverse dwindling numbers of visitors amid the economic slump.

As head of promotion and tourism, Catriona McLees will raise the profile of the national park and boost the already hugely important tourism industry in the authority’s 60th anniversary year.

Ms McLees, who was previously the sustainable tourism manager at Welcome to Yorkshire, will be working to strengthen partnerships with tourism bodies, local authorities and others to maximise publicity for the North York Moors.

She will also be tasked with promoting the authority’s two visitor centres at Sutton Bank and Danby and will help develop innovative event and exhibition programmes in an attempt to reach new audiences.

Work on a new £175,000 exhibition at Sutton Bank started last month and is set to be completed in the spring. It is being carried out as part of the Lime and Ice Project, which has been awarded £500,000 in Lottery funding to run until 2013. The project was launched to allow the public to learn more about the landscapes of the national park and the neighbouring Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Ms McLees said: “The North York Moors is a beautiful place. The variety of landscape and cultural heritage is unlike almost anywhere else I’ve been, but it is something of a hidden gem. I know there is a wealth of pride felt by those who live and work in and around the national park and with the 60th anniversary and an exciting new exhibition soon to be unveiled at Sutton Bank National Park Centre, there is plenty to shout about.

“I’m really looking forward to discovering more about the area and helping to put it firmly on the map.”

Last year the Yorkshire Post revealed that the North York Moors National Park’s visitor numbers had fallen by about 10 per cent during the peak summer period as financially-stricken householders ditched days out and holidays to save money.

The authority is facing a shortfall of nearly £65,000 following a decline in car parking fees and sales at its visitor centres as well as a fall in fees for planning applications.