More than 200 North East businesses came together to hear about the region’s response to
coronavirus at a virtual conference.
The conference, run by public and private sector partnership NewcastleGateshead Initiative
(NGI), saw business leaders from the region talk about the current response to coronavirus,
how the North East economy can be restarted and ways to reimagine our region’s future.
There was a showcase of the region’s resilience and how it has adapted and innovated to
protect lives and support the economy. Examples included the opening of a multi-million-
pound regional Covid-19 hub, hosting the UK’s first ever socially distanced gig and vital life
science research, Christmas flash mobs down the Tyne, virtual Christmas markets and the
development of a web-based application to enable city centre social distancing.
During the conference, businesses were asked when they expected to return to normal
operations – 33 per cent of respondents believed it would be by the end of this year but 31
per cent thought it would take until 2022 with a further 18 per cent believing it would be 2023
before their business would be back to pre-pandemic levels.
Part of the event examined the impact of coronavirus on the tourism sector which included a
50 per cent reduction in visitor numbers to NewcastleGateshead in 2020, as well as a 55 per
cent loss in revenue and an estimated 12,000 job losses.
Attendees heard from tourism minister Nigel Huddleston about how the government was
supporting the hospitality and tourism industry through the pandemic.
Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “We have worked hard to provide support to the
tourism industry throughout the difficult challenges of 2020 including through the Job
Retention Scheme, cash grants, VAT cuts, and business rates relief. Now thanks to the
vaccine we can be more optimistic for 2021. The tourism industry has a strong track record
of creating jobs and driving consumer spending and I will be doing all I can to support it when it is safe for it to reopen. I was impressed by the positive and collaborative attitude of
the speakers and attendees at this event and I look forward to visiting the region to see the
tourism recovery work first hand.
Newcastle City Council Leader Nick Forbes, Gateshead Council Leader Martin Gannon,
North East LEP Chair Lucy Winskell and Chief Executive of Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals
NHS Foundation Trust Dame Jackie Daniel were among those to set out the region’s health
and economic response to the pandemic and plans for restarting the economy.
Councillor Martin Gannon, Leader of Gateshead Council said: “It was great to see the
business community come together to discuss the region’s recovery and how we can re-
imagine the future. A vital part of our future will be NewcastleGateshead Quays, which will
not only provide us with a world-class events space but much needed employment and
Councillor Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle City Council said: “Over the last 12
months we have faced extraordinary social and economic challenges, and our city’s
collaborative response is testament to the strength of our relationships. The vaccine is
offering hope for the future, but we must continue to work together to roll the vaccine out as
quickly as possible, control the virus, and mitigate its impact on both our communities and
“Our city’s public and private sectors have a real ability to work together, and this pandemic
has demonstrated the very best our city has to offer. I would like to take this opportunity to
thank every single person for the sacrifices they have made and the business community for
its pragmatic and constructive way of engaging with us throughout this crisis. It has been a
huge city effort with everyone pulling together to protect our people, the NHS and economy.
Despite challenges on the horizon, this event really highlighted a united sense of purpose
which will support our city to come out stronger.”
Sarah Green, Chief Executive, NewcastleGateshead Initiative said: I could not be
prouder of the resilience and dedication the region has shown in response to this pandemic.
The fact that more than 200 leaders, businesses and people joined our conference shows
the level of ambition to work together to reimagine, rebuild and grow our economy.
“Our city has not only shown resilience throughout the pandemic, but it has also adapted
and innovated to balance the health of the public with the needs of our economy. I have no
doubt that the city will continue to work collaboratively, supporting us to build consumer
confidence, create and protect jobs and develop the skills needed to build back stronger.
“We cannot just plan for recovery, we know that our experiences through this pandemic will
have shaped a different future, accelerated some changes, and created new paradigms. We
want to work with our partners to reimagine Newcastle and Gateshead and build on the
determination and resilience of the North East, to create a more inclusive, greener, and
more entrepreneurial place. This conference was just the beginning of a city-wide dialogue
on a long-term city vision.”
Supported by Gateshead Council, Newcastle City Council and by working with more than
170 private sector partners across the North East of England, the focus of
NewcastleGateshead Initiative’s activity is economic growth; working to change perceptions
and position the region as an international destination of choice for businesses, investors,
visitors, events, students, and talent.