NEW branding to promote one of the finest Dark Sky Parks in the country will hopefully lead to thousands more visitors heading to the North East once the pandemic is over.

The new logo was designed by Drummond Central for Northumberland’s International Dark Sky, Park, one of the first in the country and still Europe’s largest Gold Tier Dark Sky Park. It reflects ambitions to develop a new era in astrotourism and capitalise on Northumberland’s first Dark Sky Festival.

Tourism bosses said they were looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Northumberland and building on pre-pandemic figures, which showed that dark skies tourism was worth more than £25m per year to the county, generating around 450 jobs.

Maureen McAllister, acting director of visitor economy at Visit Northumberland, said: “Dark sky tourism continues to play an integral role in Northumberland’s tourism strategy. It’s been fantastic to see businesses collaborating to successfully deliver the first Northumberland Dark Sky Festival.

“We’re looking forward to welcoming visitors back so they can experience our spectacular dark skies for themselves.”

Catherine Johns, CEO of Kielder Observatory, which attracts thousands of visitors a year to beautiful Kielder Water and Forest Park, said: “Like so many industries, tourism has been hit hard by the COVID pandemic. By working together, we see a real opportunity to grow Northumberland’s reputation as the best place in the country for astrotourism.”

Northumberland has already gained a national reputation for the excellence of its dark skies, and new events are being planned as the branding is launched which will boost its astrotourism offering.

It includes building on the Northumberland Dark Sky Festival held last month, where more than 4,600 people logged on to 13 live streamed events, such as an Introduction to Astro Photography and Chasing the Northern Lights.

Roy Alexander, director of Battlesteads Observatory worked with Kielder, Twice Brewed and Stonehaugh Observatories to organise the Dark Sky Festival.

He said: “I was really proud of our inaugural Dark Sky Festival which brought together all of the Northumberland observatories to share our passion for astronomy. Looking to the future, Northumberland will no doubt continue to lead as a Dark Sky Park, not just nationally but globally. I’m excited to be part of a new era of positivity and collaborations that will engage more people and see even more visitors come and see us.”

Duncan Wise, visitor development and tourism officer for Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “During the pandemic we have all reconnected with nature whilst we stay at home and there’s a sense of humility about standing underneath a beautiful dark sky. By engaging with people online, more people have been able to experience Northumberland’s dark skies, many for the first time. As restrictions on movement start to ease, people will want to come and see themselves what Northumberland has to offer. We now have four observatories in and around our Dark Sky Park and we’re collaborating to support growth in our astrotourism offering. We look forward to welcoming people back for some unforgettable experiences.”