Bishop Auckland has been officially named as one of the most welcoming towns in the country as it prepares to greet thousands of new visitors. Durham has become the first North East location to be awarded WorldHost Recognised Destination status, following a training initiative delivered by The Auckland Project and Durham County Council.

An internationally renowned programme, WorldHost has set a new benchmark for excellence in customer service and was used to great effect for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. As the latest official WorldHost destination, the world-class welcome in Bishop Auckland puts the town on par with locations such as Liverpool, a former UK City of Culture.

To attain the accolade, 286 employees from 22 local businesses in Bishop Auckland completed a training course, gaining new skills to deliver a warm and friendly welcome to all visitors.

The businesses involved include Bishop Auckland Town Council, Bishop Auckland Town Hall, Bishop Trains, Bondgate Gallery, Castlegate Café, Eleven Arches, Escomb Saxon Church, Gillian Arnold, Image Bridal, M&Co, No.17 Bar and Bistro, Painting with Thread Gallery, Park Head Country Hotel, Premier Inn, Saxon Inn, Spice Lounge, The Auckland Project, The Merry Monk, Trimmers Hair Design, and the Victorian Tearooms.

To become a WorldHost Recognised Business, 50 per cent of frontline employees at each of the 22 businesses had to complete WorldHost customer service training programmes.

Cllr Carl Marshall, said: “This is a fantastic achievement. We are, of course, renowned for our warm and friendly attitude in the north east but achieving WorldHost status is proof of just how committed the businesses of Bishop Auckland are to offering the best possible welcome to visitors. Providing the highest levels of customer service has an invaluable impact on the economy, ensuring visitors return time and again and building on the town and county’s reputation as a top class visitor destination.”

Bishop Auckland is predicted to attract more than 430,000 annual visitors by 2020, through initiatives including The Auckland Project, which is being supported by £11.4 million of National Lottery funding, and Kynren, an epic tale of England by Eleven Arches.

This influx of both domestic and international visitors is forecast to pour £20m a year into the local economy. Kynren volunteers, known as ‘Archers’ were among the first to complete the training.

Michelle Gorman, Managing Director of Visit County Durham, said: “As a shining example to others of what can be achieved, this step change in customer service supports our commitment to delivering a quality visitor experience and helps to further differentiate the Durham brand.”

The creation of a WorldHost Recognised Destination in the DL14 postcode area has been the result of partnership work between local businesses and organisations, Durham County Council and The Auckland Project.

The WorldHost training courses have been delivered by the council’s Durham Employment Skills team and The Auckland Project and funded by Durham County Councillor Joy Allen, through her Neighbourhood Budget and Bishop Auckland and Shildon Area Action Partnership, and the National Lottery players via the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Cllr Allen, who has also completed the WorldHost training herself, said: “This has been a really important project for our town and I am delighted that all the effort and investment has paid off now we have achieved the highly acclaimed and sought after WorldHost destination status. The independent businesses working alongside ourselves and The Auckland Project really got behind this training and it is to their credit that they have helped us achieve this prestigious award.”

Louise Costello, Visitor Experience Manager at The Auckland Project, said: “The next few years will see the creation of a world-class visitor attraction in Bishop Auckland, providing an opportunity to showcase the best of the town.

“The visitor experience, whether from leisure, transport, hospitality or retail businesses can hugely impact whether they return to Durham or recommend it to friends and family. We need to ensure that as a community we have the skills in place to welcome the world to Bishop Auckland.”

The recognition status has been awarded by performance and talent management expert, People 1st, which has seen more than 200,000 people across the country trained using WorldHost. Programmes.

Jane Rexworthy, Executive Director at People 1st said: “Becoming a WorldHost Recognised Destination is a fantastic achievement and it’s incredibly encouraging to see so many businesses willing to go the extra mile for their customers.”

WorldHost training is now being used by The Auckland Project as a customer service benchmark for its employees and volunteers, for more information on volunteering opportunities visit:

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