VCD Blog - Strengthening national connections: The benefits of the partnership approach

Publication Date: 01st Aug 2023

Partnership working is at the core of Visit County Durham. Strategic national and international partnerships are essential to the success of our work as a Local Visitor Economy Partnership, with our approach receiving international recognition.

Partnerships allow us to forge strategic connections to support the delivery of the county’s growth plan, share expertise and best practise, and join forces for mutually beneficial projects.

Partnerships also give us a stronger voice, helping us to support the destination and the hundreds of tourism businesses that are located here. Our national partnerships are especially important for this reason, ensuring we are involved in national discussions about the future of the visitor economy, and providing us with opportunities to lobby for Durham and the North East.

Here are some examples of our national partnerships and the benefits they bring.

VisitEngland, VisitBritain and the Department for Digital Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)

As national tourism bodies – funded by DCMS – VisitBritain and VisitEngland play a unique role in raising Britain’s profile worldwide and developing the visitor economy in England and Great Britain. At Visit County Durham, we work closely with these organisations to ensure Durham is part of these activities. From collaborating on marketing campaigns and media visits to sitting on the Local Visitor Economy Partnership Network and Destination Research Group – we are in regular contact with our national counterparts. We regularly attend VisitEngland and VisitBritain networking events and conferences, and host their representatives in Durham, allowing them to experience our tourism offer first hand.

Last year, DCMS awarded the first Destination Development Partnership pilot to Visit County Durham, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Visit Northumberland, demonstrating the high esteem in which our region is held nationally. The partnership – known as Destination North East England – also includes seven of the region’s local authorities and aims to further develop our visitor economy, creating a blueprint for destination management for the whole of England.

Local Visitor Economy Partnership Network

Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEP) were created following a major review of the future of destination management in England. Visit County Durham was one of the first three destination management organisations in the country to receive LVEP accreditation, placing us in the best position under the new framework to expand on our destination development and business support activities. The LVEP Network brings together representatives from the 15 LVEPs across the country, providing a forum to discuss issues affecting the industry and share best practice.

England’s Historic Cities

Durham City is one of our county’s greatest assets, with both Durham University and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle providing an international profile. As a member of the England’s Historic Cities consortium, we work alongside tourism representatives of 12 partner cities to raise the profile of England’s Historic Cities and their contribution to the economy with wider stakeholders including Government and the private sector. We share best practice, finding solutions to common issues, and aspirations including organisational resilience and performance. We also showcase our destinations through international marketing campaigns. This includes a dedicated website,, which provides itinerary inspiration and other valuable information for visitors planning a trip to one or a combination of the cities featured. The group also works collectively on product development projects and provides a single industry voice.

National Coastal Tourism Academy

The National Coastal Tourism Academy is the leading organisation on coastal tourism in England, supporting the growth and recovery of the visitor economy in coastal areas. With a focus on addressing seasonality, it aims to help seaside destinations and businesses develop sustainable tourism that benefits coastal communities. We work with the National Coastal Tourism Academy to ensure the Durham Coast benefits from these activities, which also brings a positive impact to the wider county. We partner with them and other English coastal destinations on national and international marketing campaigns and, currently, the Year of the Coast 2023. Linked to the completion of the King Charles III England Coast Path, the campaign aims to promote England’s coast as a year-round visitor destination, while raising awareness of the issues businesses and communities face in these areas.


UKinbound is a trade association representing inbound tourism, the UK’s sixth largest export industry and third largest employer. Visit County Durham is a member on behalf of the destination and County Durham businesses. As one of more than 300 members, we are able to attend a programme of events designed to connect buyers and suppliers in the travel trade. We also take advantage of marketing opportunities and market seminars and have access to the latest industry insights to help us attract more overseas visitors.

European Tourism Association

The European Tourism Association (ETOA) is a member-driven community of more than 1,100 organisations – from global travel brands and destination management organisations to small independent businesses. Durham has excellent links to Europe thanks to Newcastle and Teesside airports and the Port of Tyne, as well as benefiting from direct trains to London and Manchester. Growing overseas tourism is a priority for Visit County Durham and, as an ETOA member, we can promote the county to European tour operators and travel agents. We can also collaborate on marketing campaigns and can access up-to-date research, webinar recordings, actionable insights and opinion pieces on relevant topics.

Group travel partnerships

Group travel is a major contributor to Durham’s visitor economy and is an area we are aiming to build further through Discover Durham, our group travel consortium. As a member of both the Coach Tourism Association and the Association of Group Travel Organisers, we have strengthened our relationships with coach tour operators and tour whole sellers, while raising awareness of Durham’s group friendly attractions and accommodation.

Visit County Durham will continue to work with these partners and will secure other strategic collaboration opportunities as part of our commitment to growing Durham’s visitor economy and raising the county’s profile, nationally and internationally.