Durham Tourism Superstar

Durham has crowned its first Tourism Superstar in three years, following a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Connor Turnbull, a security officer at Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Destination, has been crowned Durham Tourism Superstar 2022 thanks to his excellent customer service, volunteering experience and tenacious attitude to tourism.

Richard Kaye, centre manager at Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Destination, said: "Connor is a great example of what you can achieve with dedication and hard work. Security can often be an overlooked, challenging, and demanding profession - but Connor does his job and so much more."

Visit County Durham, Durham County Council’s tourism service, organises the annual competition to celebrate the shining stars working across Durham’s tourism industry. Mr Turnbull was nominated for the prize alongside staff and volunteers from a range of visitor attractions and hospitality venues including Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens, Killhope Lead and Mining Museum, Seaham Hall Hotel and Serenity Spa, and Locomotion. The five finalists then went head-to-head in a public vote.

Ivor Stolliday, chair of Visit County Durham Ltd, said: “We are simply delighted for Connor. This competition was created to recognise the beating heart of Durham’s tourism industry: its people. Their smiles, kind words and commitment to ensuring the best visitor experience possible is what makes Durham such an extraordinary place to visit.

“I hope Connor is extremely proud of himself, and I know the team at Dalton Park feel very lucky to have him on board. They describe Connor as always having a smile on his face and a spring in his step.”

In the nine years the competition has been running, three individuals from Durham have gone on to be crowned Visit England and Mirror Travel national Tourism Superstar winners. This includes the 2019 champion Emily Hope (Beamish, The Living Museum of the North); Lillian Groves (Durham Cathedral), who was named winner in 2015and Matthew Henderson (Engagement & Participation Assistant at Beamish Museum) who triumphed in 2014.

Councillor Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The Durham Tourism Superstar competition is a fantastic way to highlight the wonderful people who make Durham such a special place to visit.

“Durham has been very successful in the national Tourism Superstar competitions over the years, and I’d love to see Connor go on to win the UK accolade. He would be a very worthy winner.

“The global pandemic has presented huge challenges to the tourism industry and the thousands of people it employs in our county. The resilience and ingenuity we have seen has been truly inspiring and so I would also like to take this opportunity to thank all of our tourism heroes for their hard work as we look forward to brighter times ahead.”

When asked about his victory, Connor said: “Irrespective of the result, I was genuinely over the moon to be nominated alongside such a great group of people and I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who voted for me.

“I love my job at Dalton Park Outlet Shopping Destination. Everyday I get to meet lots of new people while endeavouring to keep them safe. It’s an honour to go forward to the national competition, so right now I am feeling proud, happy and really excited to see where this win might take me.”

The other Durham Tourism Superstar 2022 finalists were: Beryl Anderson, visitor experience assistant at Locomotion; Robert Brown, a volunteer at Ushaw Historic House, Chapels and Gardens; Maria McArdle, manager of Killhope Lead Mining Museum; and Kevin Jackson; a porter at Seaham Hall Hotel.