The boat comes in for Geordie Shore as tourism booms
Despite fears that the North-east series was a freak show, hotels are busy and the diary is full
It was the PR nightmare that tourist officials always dreaded. When the reality TV show Geordie Shore hit our screens last summer, civic leaders in the North-east complained that the show was promoting "outdated stereotypes that [the region] has worked hard to shed".
But quite the opposite appears to have happened. Hotels and travel agents are reporting a surge of interest, which they are putting down to the Geordie Shore effect. Booking inquiries since the new year are up more than fourfold on this time a year ago.
After the hard work put in by artist Antony Gormley with his Angel of the North and respectable ambassadors of the region such as Cheryl Cole, it was feared the programme would drive tourists away from the region in their thousands. One critic called the show "a gaudy kaleidoscope of six-packs, shots, fights, simulated fellatio and exposed breasts", before noting that being offended by any of it was like "being shocked by the lack of nutrition in a Pot Noodle". Yet one local MP, Chi Onwurah, was so incensed that she made noises about raising it in Parliament.
But as we know from the Victorians' fascination with asylums, the public is not always so squeamish, and the uninhibited antics of the Geordie Shore cast seems to be attracting tourists to the area.
Whitley Bay, the glittering Northumberland seaside resort that is pitched by the programme makers as the equivalent of America's Jersey Shore, has seen hotel booking inquiries treble since last year, according to Hotels.com, and tourist officials say a wider visitor "curiosity factor" has spread to Sunderland, South Shields and Hexham.
There may be other factors, of course. Pippa Middleton generated headlines over a rumoured relationship with George Percy, the heir to Alnwick Castle. This winter the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead became only the second venue outside London to host the Turner Prize in 27 years, and later this year St James's Park in Newcastle is one of the football venues for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Indeed, a spokesman for the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative said: "I think it's fair to say the programme is seen very much for what it is – an entertainment programme... that certainly has not damaged our image."
Still, not everyone has come round to Geordie Shore. Frank Furedi, of the University of Kent, said that the show had "turned Newcastle into a theme park" and accused it of promoting a "pathway to voyeurism". "In the short-term visitors numbers might flourish, but ultimately society suffers."
48 hours in Geordieland: Six sights and sensations you shouldn't miss...
Bigg Market, Newcastle
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The Stadium of Light, Sunderland
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Gateshead's cultural quarter contains the Baltic Centre and the Sage.
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The Alnwick Garden
Magnificent garden complex with Harry Potter connections.
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