THE Tall Ships Races, which come to Hartlepool this weekend, are expected to continue a bumper year for the region’s guesthouses.

There has been an increase in bookings in the Tees Valley on Sunday of 40 per cent compared to last year, to 59 per cent, new figures from regional development agency One North East show.

In addition, 79 per cent of hotel accommodation in the Tees Valley and Durham is already booked for Saturday, compared with 63 per cent at the same point last year.

It comes after guesthouses in the region enjoyed their best June for a decade.

Bed and breakfast providers in the North-East showed occupancy levels of 43 per cent for the month, the highest since 1997.

The bank holiday weekends in May were both buoyant, with an increase in hotel occupancy for the Whitsun bank holiday up to 80 per cent across the North-East, up from 71 per cent last year.

In addition, tourism businesses in the whole of the serviced accommodation sector have recorded an increase of four per cent for the first six months of the year compared to the same period last year, increasing from 60 per cent to 64 per cent.

Julia Frater, head of area tourism partnership visit- Teesvalley, said: “These figures demonstrate that there is significant interest in The Tall Ships Races.”