THE search is on to find County Durham’s Tourism Superstar of 2023.

Voting has now opened to find the person who shows the greatest passion for the county and a real dedication to giving visitors a priceless experience.

Judges have drawn up a shortlist of superstars from which members of the public can choose the county’s winner who will go on to represent Durham in a national competition.

The nominees include an artisan cheesemaker, a man steeped in railways, a penny farthing enthusiast, a green tourism proponent and an entire earthmoving team.

It is the first time that teams have been allowed to enter the competition, which is run by Visit County Durham in association with The Northern Echo.

The Durham winner will go forward to a national competition in which the county has a remarkable record of success – its champion has been crowned VisitEngland’s national Tourism Superstar in three of the last six years in which the crown has been fought for.

Voting will close at midday on Friday, July 7, and the winner will be announced on July 18.

So who is going to carry the county’s flag this year? These are the nominations for the five shortlisted candidates with the voting buttons beneath:

The Northern Echo: Ian Beam of Beamish Museum

Ian Bean of Beamish Museum

Vote for Ian! Without doubt, Ian Bean is a true Tourism Superstar – from penny farthing riding and Suffragette rallies to helping with sessions for people living with dementia and appearing in the Downton Abbey movie – Ian has devoted an amazing 37 years to ensuring all Beamish visitors enjoy an unforgettable experience.

An Edwardian engager bringing history to life, Ian has also restored vintage vehicles, supported events, been a Cluedo Beamish edition suspect and a TikTok sensation.

Joining as a volunteer, four decades later he’s a museum engager, and his family are devoted volunteers. Ian is a true Tourism Superstar!

The Northern Echo: Diggerland Park Marshals

Diggerland Park Marshals

Everyone who works at Diggerland Durham does so because they love it and they want to be a part of it. Our customers can see that too! Every piece of feedback we receive commends our amazing team. Our reputation has spread far and wide, with some customers travelling from overseas to experience the service that we have to offer. We put incredible amounts of effort into creating what has recently been described as a “hidden gem”, and we want our marshals to be recognised for their outstanding contribution to Durham’s tourist landscape.

The Northern Echo: Peter Robinson of Locomotion

Peter Robinson of Locomotion

If you had to encapsulate the essence of Shildon and the role it has played in the global railway story, then it would look like Peter. He comes from a railway family, and was once employed in Shildon Works, where Locomotion now stands. His attachment to the site has cultivated a profound loyalty for the museum – a volunteer for 15 years, he simply never left!His authentic passion for the place is recognised by all our visitors, many of whom make special requests for him to lead their tours. There is absolutely nothing he wouldn’t do to ensure they have the best and most memorable time with us. Superstar, superhero, superman – every single one of these applies to Peter and he is truly deserving of your vote.

The Northern Echo: Michelle Fenwick of Raby Castle

Michelle Fenwick of Raby Castle

Michelle has a natural way with people and a willingness to provide an excellent level of customer service. Whether it’s a Raby regular, a local community group or a family who have not never visited the area before, she’ll cater the Raby experience to them.

Not only this but Michelle goes above and beyond, championing green tourism voluntarily on behalf of Raby Estate and undertaking a new leadership programme to support the development of junior staff and volunteers.

From everyone here at Raby Estate, we truly feel that Michelle is worthy of this award and an absolute asset to the castle, visitors and county.

The Northern Echo: Jonathan Raper of Teesdale Cheesemakers

Jonathan Raper of Teesdale Cheesemakers

Jonathan was born in Bishop Auckland and has a passion for learning. As a result, he has a breadth of knowledge that means he can talk and relate to everyone who visits our café, shop and glamping pods near Butterknowle.

He is interested in people so despite a huge list of tasks on his itinerary, he always has time for a story, a chat or a joke.

The team here are convinced that a big part of the reason that the locals keep coming back is for the ‘crack’ and the tourists find him a font of local knowledge.

He's warm, friendly, and funny, has a huge knowledge of the area, a passion for the county and the people in it. With his family background in both farming and mining, he typifies the warmth and down to earth sense of humour of the people of County Durham.

Jonathan doesn’t just support our business here at Teesdale Cheesemakers, he’s an ambassador for many local businesses and attractions and a credit to County Durham. We’re very lucky to have him.

Vote now using the form below!