THE North-East won top honours at the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence this week.

The annual event highlights the best of the country’s tourism industry, and celebrates quality, innovation and best practice.

Seahouses bed and breakfast, St Cuthbert’s House won silver, while Northumbrian and Scandinavian fusion restaurant, Hjem, in Hexham, and County Durham luxury spa hotel, Seaham Hall both won bronze.

Ross Grieve, managing director of five-star Seaham Hall, which was competing in the small hotel of the year category, said the bronze award was an honour.

“It is thanks to the entire team at Seaham Hall for their ongoing hard work and dedication, together with the ongoing support from our regular guests and friends of Seaham Hall, that we have received this recognition,” he said.

“We look forward to another successful year, as we welcome Ben Stokes as our new brand ambassador and launch our new luxury residences.”

It was also a successful evening for North-East destination management and marketing organisations, as NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) won silver and Visit County Durham won gold in the international distribution award. The award recognises destinations committed to increasing the international distribution of their tourism products and acknowledges their move towards creating more online bookable products.

The awards came in the same week that Visit County Durham launched a marketing campaign to promote Durham as being “worth the wait”, urging visitors from within the region to choose the county for a day visit or staycation.

It is the first stage of activity to get tourism back on track after the Covid-19 lockdown.

Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, said: “As people enjoy spending more time with loved ones, we want to encourage them to choose Durham for their next day out or staycation. Research shows that tourism from within our own region will recover first, as consumer confidence starts to build, and residents become comfortable with returning to their favourite places or discovering something new a short journey from home.”