As we approach the festive period a new virtual Christmas gift market has been launched to support independent shops, hotels, attractions, cultural venues, artisans, creatives and restaurants in the region. 

The virtual market aims to offer people an alternative shopping experience during the lockdown period, as well as giving an opportunity to pledge support to the many organisations and institutions that make the North East distinctive but have been devastated by the restrictions imposed due to Covid-19. 

Shoppers can find gift vouchers from more than 50 local businesses for friends and family to enjoy when it is safe to do. Gifts available include hotel and restaurant vouchers, visitor attraction memberships and even naming a seat at Tyne Theatre and Opera House.

Anyone looking for Christmas gifts will be able to access them easily through the virtual market, while staying safe and supporting local businesses. Destination management organisationNewcastleGateshead Initiative has launched the market to help support the tourism and hospitality industry through the normally busy Christmas period. 

The tourism industry has been particularly badly hit by the coronavirus with current estimates showing a potential loss to the sector in the region of £2.8bn and more than 35,000 jobs. The sector has worked hard to ensure that it has been operating safely with 1,700 businesses in the region being accredited with the VisitBritain ‘We’re Good to Go’ scheme.

Ian Thomas, Director of Leisure Tourism and Research at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Christmas would normally be one of the busiest times of the year for our tourism and hospitality industry, but this year many businesses are fighting for survival and need your support.

“We know Christmas will be different this year and that we won’t be able to celebrate with colleagues or friends at our usual Christmas parties. We are asking people to consider supporting the hard-hit tourism industry by gifting your friends, families, colleagues or customers vouchers allowing them to experience the best of the North East.

“The variety of the gift vouchers available highlights the diversity of the North East offer and why the region is loved by locals and increasingly popular with visitors. Gifting these vouchers means we can give businesses cash support now but offers customers the flexibility to redeem them when they feel comfortable to do so.”

Cllr Ged Bell, cabinet member for employment and culture at Newcastle City Council, added: “Our hospitality and tourism sector is a huge part of what makes Newcastle a great city, known the world over for our warm Geordie welcome.

“This scheme is a fantastic idea and provides some much-needed financial support to our wonderful businesses who are facing incredibly challenging times, so let’s all get behind it and do what we can to support them.”

Andy Hook, owner of Blackfriars Restaurant and Dobson & Parnell in Newcastle who have gift vouchers available on the market, said: “It’s so easy to turn to Amazon for all your needs and wants these days, especially when stuck at home, but there are so many amazing local independent businesses in our region who not only need our support but also deserve our support. And wouldn’t life be boring if we only had the national chains to turn to each time we wanted a gift. So let’s get behind this fantastic initiative and support our local restaurants, bars and retailers who employ thousands of local people.”

The Virtual Christmas Market can be found here: www.newcastlegateshead.com/virtual-christmas-market