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Rockliffe helps fightback.

THE opening of destination hotel Rockliffe Hall will help transform the image of the Tees Valley as the industry competes against aggressive price cutting and looks to make up for lost business bookings, the head of tourism said.

The latest regional visitor numbers released by One North East show both bed occupancy levels and visitor numbers to attractions were up compared to last year.

Julia Frater, head of VisitTeesValley, said local figures were broadly similar, but added: "It's a difficult time for the hotels particularly because of the loss of the business market. Most of our hotels were full Monday to Thursday, but there has been a decline."

Hotel chains Premier Inns and Travelodge have both recently entered a recession-induced price war, which, while depressing prices generally, at least attracted more visitors to the Tees Valley, said Ms Frater. The full impact of the downturn will become clear later this week, following the latest bi-monthly industry forums which bring together 50 operators from the B& B, hotel and self-catering sectors alongside venue and events managers.

The visiting friends and family market remained a core one for the Tees Valley, said Ms Frater, no doubt helping to boost footfall at attractions including HMS Trincomalee and the Salthome reserve while the recent Music Live event attracted a record 15,000 crowd.

But the aim now was to attract more hotels at 4-star rating and above to the Tees Valley. "The demand is there," said Ms Frater. "Rockliffe, which opens later this year, will have a huge impact on the Tees Valley in terms of the image of the area."

There was already at appetite for luxury, she said.

"Weddings are at an all-time high and Crathorne is fully booked over Christmas," she said.

Regional figures for April to June 2009 showed that room occupancy levels rose 5% on the same period in 2008. B& Bs and guesthouses were the largest beneficiaries, recording an average of 56%, an increase of 11% on last year.

Self-catering properties also had a good start to the summer with an increase in occupancy of 10% to 66%.

Overall, visitor numbers to the region are up by 10% with more than four million people visiting.

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ATTRACTION: The hotel at Rockliffe golf course will help to bring in new visitors
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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jul 27, 2009
Words:383
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