TOURISM in Darlington is booming.

The tourist industry injected more than £70m into the local economy last year and supported more than 1,600 full time jobs in catering, retail, entertainment an the accommodation sectors.

Latest figures reveal that last year Information Darlington, the town's tourist information centre in the Market Place, dealt with more than 171,000 inquiries from visitors and local residents.

Its website, www.visit attracted more than 27,500 visits with most inquiries searching for information on where to stay in Darlington, followed by eating out guides and details of attractions, activities and events.

Research commissioned by Darlington Council's tourism office shows that each year more people are visiting to enjoy shops, restaurants, leisure facilities and heritage.

In 2003, 675,000 day-trippers visited Darlington and 131,000 visitors stayed over. There are no figures for last year yet.

David Lyonette, Darlington Borough Council's cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: "Our tourist information office is very busy all year round because more and more people are visiting our town each year.

"The work we have planned for the town's pedestrian heart can only boost the town's profile and attract more shoppers and visitors."

The tourist information office also provides local transport information, Civic Theatre and Arts Centre bookings and National Express and Eurolines bookings.