Events & Training

Autumn Conference 2023

A destination for all: Accessibility takes centre stage at tourism conference

Ensuring an excellent welcome for all visitors was the key theme of Visit County Durham’s 2023 Industry Conference.

Representatives from tourism businesses across the sector attended the event at Lumley Castle – from attractions and hotels, to bed and breakfasts and suppliers to industry.

The annual event featured presentations from Visit Britain, and leading experts on accessibility and customer service, who provided a valuable insight into some of the tourism industry’s most pressing issues.

Ross Calladine, head of business support at VisitEngland and Government-appointed disability and access ambassador for tourism, spoke about the importance of accessibility for growing the visitor economy. With one in four people in the UK registered as disabled, Ross emphasised how improving accessibility not only helps to ensure destinations are open to all but allows tourism businesses to tap into a high value, growing market.

Chris Cammis, director and access auditor at Visits Unlimited, told delegates about his work supporting attractions and venues across the UK to improve accessibility. Chris, who has been in a wheelchair since he was a child, shared some of his own experiences as a visitor, and emphasised how disabled people rate the attitude of staff as the most important part of a visit.

Susie Brindley, of Willow Business Support, expanded on this with an interactive presentation on the importance of an excellent welcome. Highlighting how each happy customer will make a least nine referrals, Susie asked delegates to give their own examples of good and bad customer service and then discussed examples with the group. She also shared top tips on how to stand out from the crowd.

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “It was great to see such a strong turnout at this year’s industry conference and I’m sure the excellent speakers played a big part in this. Accessibility and good customer service should never be afterthoughts, they should always be at the forefront of our minds, especially when we plan for the future of our destination.

“Ross, Susie and Chris all spoke with great passion on their subjects, and I would like to thank them for sharing their knowledge, insights and advice.”

During the conference, delegates also received an update on the work and priorities of the national Destination Development Partnership pilot, which is being delivered by Visit County Durham, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Visit Northumberland.

And Duncan Peake, interim chair of Visit County Durham and chief executive of Raby Estates, provided an overview of Durham’s visitor economy, including updates on major developments across the county.

If you have any questions or need further information, please email