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Arts & Culture

Staycationers flock to city’s seaside

The rising popularity of staycations and the easing of lockdown measures has provided a major boost to Sunderland’s visitor economy, new data has revealed.

Airbnb and Vrbo hosts in the city witnessed a 13.8 per cent rise in bookings during April 2021 compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from AirDNA, which tracks bookings on both of the accommodation platforms.

The data – analysed by MySunderland – also revealed that occupancy rates for April soared 47 per cent on March, as the easing of lockdown restrictions on April 12 allowed UK holidaymakers to visit staycation hotspots such as seaside resorts and rural getaways.

Cllr Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’ve invested heavily in improving the city’s leisure and tourist offer along our coastline and riverside over recent years and are delighted to see our city’s ambition really starting to bear fruit.

“From improvements to the seafront to the transformation of the Cultural Quarter in the city centre, Sunderland is fast-establishing itself as a destination of choice for visitors not only from across the UK, but also overseas, and hopefully this momentum will continue to build as we re-emerge from the pandemic.”

The data also showed that – of the 193 property listings across the city – seven of the 10 most popular properties over the past 12 months were within walking distance of Sunderland’s twin seaside resorts of Roker and Seaburn.

Boasting two blue flag beaches, the seaside destinations have benefited from significant investment over recent years, with tens of millions in private and public sector money being poured into a wealth of high-profile development projects.

This includes the development of the STACK Seaburn container village, the upgrade of miles of public realm area along the coastline and the arrival of The Seaburn Inn – a 40-bedroom development overlooking Seaburn beach – and the regeneration of Pier Point at Roker, now a vibrant hub of eateries and cafes.

Capitalising on this, the city council is also working with 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, to launch a new city identity, aimed at powering up the city’s economy as it bounces back from the pandemic.

Cllr Miller added: “Seaburn and Roker were once renowned for being thriving seaside tourism resorts and it’s fantastic to see them gradually returning to their former glory.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds are being invested in our riverside and seaside, with further investment to follow through the redevelopment of heritage buildings, the opening of the Seaburn Inn and the extension of Marine Walk, and – combined with countless other city developments currently ongoing and the collaborative working of city organisations to promote the city’s fantastic offering – it’s fair to say we’re looking to the future with real optimism.”

The findings will provide a welcome boost to the city’s leisure and tourism economy. Recently released data by the UK Government found that the city’s tourism sector shrank by 54% during 2020 – as lockdown measures introduced during the Covid-19 pandemic brought the industry to its knees – resulting in expenditure from tourists falling by a staggering £219m.

However, continued investment from both the public and private sectors is helping to buck the trend as the city recovers from the crisis.

STACK Seaburn is one such development that has seen a huge benefit from the influx in visitors. Home to a variety of street food traders, bars and service-led retailers, the container village has established itself as a buzzing venue since reopening in early April and is confident about the future as it looks to capitalise on a summer of staycations.

Gemma Dishman, marketing & special projects manager, said: “We have seen an uplift in visitors from further afield, and with the opening of the new Seaburn Inn we expect this to continue to increase. Seaburn offers the perfect location for a staycation, the coastline is stunning and it’s close to other great visitor attractions across the Northeast making it the perfect base to explore the region.

“STACK Seaburn is a welcoming hub for everyone including the dog. Our daily entertainment programme including live music, bingo, and our weekly general knowledge quiz, along with a huge variety of street food from across the globe gives visitors a great experience whenever they visit and we have a great opportunity now to showcase Sunderland as a vibrant seaside destination.”

For more information on Sunderland’s leisure and tourism offering, visit: