We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Thu 4 Oct 2007 04:00 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Nothern lights

The historic and magnificent newcastle has endured a lot of challenges in recent decades, but as Claire Ferris-Lay observes, the city in the north east of England is fast catching up and ready to shine its light once again.

The historic and magnificent newcastle has endured a lot of challenges in recent decades, but as Claire Ferris-Lay observes, the city in the north east of England is fast catching up and ready to shine its light once again.

Newcastle has transformed itself. From fighting out the Scottish to attacking preconceived notions of bad taste and outdated industries, the city is rewriting history to become a thriving cultural and business centre for the North East of England.

A 10-year rejuvenation project along the quayside is completed, old factories have been converted into flourishing art centres and trendy hotels and prospering local and international business interests are proof that the city is on its way up once again.

A major marketing campaign by One NorthEast and the NewscastleGateshead initiative have also helped raise the profile of the area.

But the city hasn't had it easy. One of the leading cities in the Industrial Revolution, its traditional mining and steel industries completely disappeared during the 1980s, thrusting the city into a decade of doom and bust.

Newcastle and the rest of the area was labeled an underperforming region with a prolific unemployment rate.

In recent years, however, unemployment has been reduced and a rejuvenation project that will make the city proud has been undertaken. Newcastle is now a vibrant city for both tourism and business.

According to the United Kingdom Tourism Survey 2005, business tourism in the North East of England represented 23% of all domestic trips and 32% of domestic tourism spending.

The data also suggests that business tourism represents a greater percentage of overall trips and value than it does any other region after London and the West Midlands.

The growing conferencing market is crucial for the city's economic and intellectual impact, which is also helping to build upon the area's reputation for research and innovations, linked with the region's five universities.

The UK Conference Market Survey recently ranked Newcastle sixth in the UK, despite it not being rated at all just five years previously.

Future business events which are expected to have a huge economic impact on the city are the British Council for Shopping Centres Annual Conference & Showcase (with approximately 3,000 delegates) and the Conservative Party Spring Forum in 2008.
Of Newcastle's hotels, 33 provide conferencing facilities along with another 25 non-residential venues. The city's flagship conferencing venue, however, is the Foster & Partners-designed the Sage, an iconic architectural masterpiece looming over the River Tyne.

The US$142m steel and glass structure is a purpose-built music and art centre which can hold up to 1,700 delegates and has already played host to a number of major events.

The NewcastleGateshead Convention Bureau provides a range of free services for anyone holding a conference in the North East of England. The services include finding an appropriate venue and accommodation, arranging social events, sourcing local suppliers and an online accommodation booking facility.

Newcastle University's strong medical and scientific research and the city's emphasis on science has so far attracted a number of international conferences including annual meetings for the European Association for the Study of the Liver and the European Association for Cancer Education.

The city also has a growing reputation for its creative and cultural industries which currently employ more than 59,000 people with significant growth expected by 2010. In the last decade the growth of such industries in the region has had a dramatic impact on the city's skyline, not least with the Sage.

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Arts is located in a renovated flour mill at the quayside. The Baltic is often described by locals as an "art factory" due to its mix of studios, exhibition spaces and its decision not to house a permanent collection.

The city is also a member of Culture10, a scheme aimed at getting one new cultural project up and running every year until 2010.

Other attractive business interests in the region include the high tourism market and the huge presence of international companies such as pharmaceutical company Procter & Gamble and car manufacturer Nissan.

The region also has strong business links with Australia and Japan and was the first to develop a political agreement with Shanghai, China.

Where to stay

The increase of business tourism in the city prompted a growth of 2,000 new hotel rooms last year.

There are a number of business hotels within close proximity of the city on either side of the Tyne. It takes just ten minutes to walk to the centre of town from the Hilton Gateshead.
The hotel has 254 well-appointed rooms with high-speed internet connections. Executive room and suite guests enjoy executive lounge access with free internet access and complimentary snacks.

Other business amenities include ten meeting rooms, all with wireless internet access and a modern, complete business centre.

The Malmaison, situated in a converted warehouse has prime position on the other side of the Tyne overlooking the Millennium Bridge. The hotel, from a chain of only ten in the UK, is an alternative choice with an emphasis on luxury but still maintains business amenities.

Every room has complimentary high-speed internet access and a wireless connection is available in the hotel bar and lobby for impromptu meetings. Meeting rooms and an entire floor for entertainment are also available for hire. The hotel's restaurant and café offer a wide choice of local hearty food.

But what the North East does best is its country house hotels, a few of which are located within a short taxi ride of the city. Seaham Hall mixes luxury with the unique.

The 19 individually designed hotel rooms and sleek, contemporary spa are set in the 19th century home of Lord Byron, one of England's most prolific and controversial poets. Guests can dine in the spa's Asian inspired restaurant or the Michelin star White Room restaurant.

Seaham Hall also offers conferencing facilities as well as a large ballroom.

Slaley Hall, an Edwardian house surrounded by 1,000 acres of forest and moorland, is 37 kilometres outside of Newcastle and is easily accessible.

As well as conferencing facilities for up to 350 delegates and meeting facilities, the 139 room hotel offers two championship golf courses for outdoor business meetings.

Planned hotels include Hotel Du Vin Newcastle in the old headquarters of the Tyne and Wear Shipping Company which is due for completion next year as well as the well-placed Ramada Inn, a four-star hotel with 180 rooms and conference facilities at the airport.

Where to go

Getting around the city couldn't be easier with a large number of taxis, a metro system and an extensive bus route. The best way to see the city centre, however, is by foot but be prepared; the North East of England is famed for its unpredictable weather.
Take in Newcastle's history and walk the cobbled streets of the city to Grey's Monument, a towering monument featuring Earl Grey, the prime minister responsible for his namesake popular tea.

Visit Northumberland Street, the bustling shopping district and the "new castle", which has fantastic views of the city. The rejuvenated area on both sides of the quayside are particularly stunning on a clear day.

The Tyne boasts a number of impressive structures including the Baltic and the Sage as well as seven bridges ranging in architectural design. The most impressive of these is the NewcastleGateshead Millennium Bridge, also known as the blinking eye due to its unique open-close mechanism.

Also note the striking resemblance of the Tyne Bridge to the Sydney Harbour Bridge as both were designed by the same company, Mott, Hay & Anderson.

A number of cafes and restaurants line the riverside allowing the best views of the River Tyne.

The North East of England encompasses centuries of history and vast expanses of green fields and stunning coastlines all within easy reach of Newcastle. Ten minutes outside of the city stands the iconic Angel of the North.

The 200 tonne steel structure stands 20 metres high and has become one of the most visible symbols of North East pride. Created by Antony Gormley, the angel is seen by some 33 million visitors every year.

Alnwick Castle and gardens, home of the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland is also a short ride out of the city and is worth a visit for anyone wanting to experience the history of the region.

The castle, better known as Hogwarts following its appearances in the Harry Potter films, is open to the public throughout the summer. Surrounding the Norman Castle are the gardens which feature a number of interactive water features as well as traditional and contemporary gardens.

The Rose Garden has hundreds of different species of the flower, which is in full bloom during the opening months. It is also well worth joining the short tour of the Poison Garden, a closely guarded garden displaying the most poisonous of plants still found today.

If Newcastle's city centre doesn't provide enough shopping choices then head to Europe's largest shopping centre, the Metro Centre, located just outside of the city in Gateshead. The shopping and leisure centre is a shopper's paradise. Visitors should dedicate a few hours just planning their route around the 300 plus shops.

Historic Durham, just a half an hour drive out of the city, is famed for its university, cobbled streets and its iconic cathedral and well-preserved Norman Castle.
Voted as best UK city by leading travel magazines, Durham is also home to the country's third most prestigious university and boasts a student population of almost 18,000.

The castle and the 12th century cathedral both make up a World Heritage Site. With high vaulted ceilings and some of the best Romanesque architecture, the cathedral has been described as "one of the greatest architectural experiences of Europe" and is perfectly positioned surrounded by the River Wear with the medieval city gathered at its feet.

Just outside Durham is the award-winning Beamish open air museum. Quite the opposite from the dusty relics often on display throughout the country in other museums, Beamish actually brings history to life.

Set in 300 acres of countryside, the museum recreates northern life in the 1825-1913 era. Ride the replica of William Hedley's famous 1813 locomotive, visit an 18th century dentist in the replica town street and join an ex-miner down the country's only open drift-mine.

The beaches in the North East of England might not have palm trees and luxury beach fronts but they do have some of the county's best unspoilt coast lines.

In nearby county Northumberland discover miles of almost deserted beaches set against a backdrop of ancient castles and history, much of which is a designated 'Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty'.

Bamburgh Beach with its Bamburgh Castle offers spectacular views of the Ferne Islands, home to thousands of grey seals and nesting sea birds. The area offers the perfect place to enjoy a traditional fish and chip supper.

How to get thereEmirates airlines

Flies direct daily from Dubai - Newcastle with approximate flying time of six hours.
Flies direct daily from Newcastle - Dubai with approximate flying time of six hours.
Business Class fare - AED 13,450.00 per adult return fare.

British Airways

Flights daily from Dubai - Heathrow - Newcastle with approximate flying time of 10 hours.
Flights daily from Newcastle - Heathrow - Dubai with approximate flying time of 10 hours.
Business Class fare - AED 11,406.00 per adult return fare.
First Class fare - AED 24,880 per adult return fare.

KLM Royal Dutch Airways

Flights daily Dubai - Amsterdam - Newcastle with approximate flying time of nine hours.
Flights daily from Newcastle - Amsterdam - Dubai with approximate flying time of nine hours.
World business class fare - AED 15, 950 per adult return fare.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.