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Arts & Culture

National tourism campaign to shine a light on ‘City of Surprises’

Sunderland’s blue flag beaches, acres of green space and landmarks such as Penshaw Monument are to be celebrated through a new national tourism campaign.

The ‘City of Surprises’ campaign, led by Sunderland City Council, aims to raise Sunderland’s profile as a destination for day trips and weekend stays, in a bid to support retail and leisure businesses that have been hard-hit by the pandemic.

Featuring stunning imagery of sites such as Roker and Seaburn, Hylton Castle and Washington Wetland Centre – captured by a roster of local photographers – the summer-long campaign will feature a range of physical and display adverts which will be presented to millions of consumers across the UK.

The campaign – which has been fully funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to promote the safe return of visitors to cities – features primarily outdoor spaces in a bid to encourage people to make use of the city’s natural assets upon their visit.

The launch also coincides with the start of school holidays, when many are looking for days out in the UK and showcases parts of the city that can be enjoyed by a range of visitors. It follows recently released data using the industry standard Scarborough Tourism Economic Activity Monitor (STEAM) that found the city’s tourism sector shrank by 54% during 2020, as the introduction of lockdown measures caused the UK’s tourism sector to grind to a standstill.

In total, 4.377 million people visited Sunderland in 2020, a decrease of 54% on 2019, with the number of overnight stays standing at 241,000 – a 69% decrease. Research also revealed a huge fall in tourism spend during the period, with tourism expenditure in Sunderland falling by almost £294m to £219m during the period. The campaign aims to put the city on the map and support businesses that have been adversely affected.

Speaking about the launch, Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “Sunderland has so much to offer as a place to visit and play, from some of the country’s best-kept beaches to a unique set of cultural assets such as The National Glass Centre and Washington Old Hall that have helped attract millions of people to the city over recent years.

“While our city economy has – like most others – felt the devastating impact of the pandemic, campaigns such as this will be key to driving our economic recovery as we re-emerge from the crisis and continue to support the industries that have really had to bear the brunt of Covid, such as our hospitality, leisure and tourism industries.

“Sunderland really does positively surprise people who visit it and this campaign will not only help shine a light on its many amazing assets to those outside of the region, but will also act as a reminder to those closer to home of all of the great things we have right here on our doorstep that we so often take for granted.”

The City of Surprises campaign coincides with the recent launch of a new city brand co-created by Sunderland City Council along with a range of stakeholders from, and with an interest in, the city, including Sunderland Business Partnership – a collective of 50 businesses – Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), Gentoo, the University of Sunderland, Sunderland College and Sunderland AFC.

The new look will be used in a range of materials, both in the city – on hoardings and signage around Sunderland – as well as on promotional material such as the City of Surprises campaign to attract visitors and investors.

For more information on Sunderland as a place to visit, visit: