November 9, 2020 @ 8:47 by Richard Dawson
A new virtual Christmas gift market has launched to support independent shops, hotels, attractions, cultural venues, creatives and restaurants in the North East.
The market aims to offer people an alternative shopping experience during the lockdown period, as well as helping those companies which have struggled due to COVID-19.
Shoppers can find gift vouchers from more than 50 local businesses for friends and family to enjoy when it is safe to do so.
This includes hotel and restaurant vouchers, visitor attraction memberships and even naming a set at the Tyne Theatre and Opera House.
Destination management organisation NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) launched the virtual market to support the tourism and hospitality industry through what is normally the busiest period of the year for trade.
The tourism industry has been particularly badly hit by coronavirus with current estimates showing a potential loss to the sector in the region of £2.8 billion and more than 35,000 jobs.
Ian Thomas, director of leisure tourism and research at NGI, said: “We know Christmas will be different this year and that we won’t be able to celebrate with colleagues or friends at our usual Christmas parties.
“We are asking people to consider supporting the hard-hit tourism industry by gifting your friends, families, colleagues or customers vouchers allowing them to experience the best of the North East.
“The variety of the gift vouchers available highlights the diversity of the North East offer and why the region is loved by locals and increasingly popular with visitors.
“Gifting these vouchers means we can give businesses cash support now but offers customers the flexibility to redeem them when they feel comfortable to do so.”
Andy Hook, owner of Blackfriars Restaurant and Dobson & Parnell in Newcastle who have gift vouchers available on the market, added: “It’s so easy to turn to Amazon for all your needs and wants these days, especially when stuck at home, but there are so many amazing local independent businesses in our region who not only need our support but also deserve our support.”