Visit County Durham’s long-serving Chair has announced he will retire next month after 14 years of dedicated service.
Ivor Stolliday was appointed Chair of the Visit County Durham Ltd board in 2009 and has proven a dedicated and inspirational ambassador for the county.
As Durham’s destination management organisation (DMO) and Durham County Council’s tourism service, Visit County Durham plays a crucial role in growing the county’s visitor economy.
Alongside the economic impact, Ivor, who has lived in the county for more than 30 years, is passionate about how tourism enriches local communities, grows civic pride and provides employment opportunities for residents.
During his tenure, Durham’s visitor economy has seen significant growth and now generates almost £1 billion each year, with Visit County Durham’s destination management model recognised as best practice internationally.
More than 11,000 people are employed in the sector and, with major developments underway across the county, this figure is set to grow further.
The last 14 years have also brought great change, with Visit County Durham transitioning from one of four regional tourism agencies to its current position as one of the first DMO’s in the country to be accredited as a Local Visitor Economy Partnership by VisitEngland. The national body’s confidence in Durham and the wider region has been further demonstrated by its decision for Visit County Durham, NewcastleGateshead Initiative and Visit Northumberland to pilot England’s first Destination Development Partnership.
However, there have been challenges to overcome too, most notably the coronavirus pandemic, which had a devastating impact on tourism and hospitality businesses, but from which the county’s visitor economy has emerged more resilient and innovative with pre-pandemic performance already in reach.
Throughout the highs and the lows, Ivor has been an unwavering ambassador for Durham, representing the county at events across the country and leading the Visit County Durham Ltd board.
Ivor will retire at the end of June, after which Duncan Peake, a current Visit County Durham board director and chief executive of Raby Estates, will serve as interim chair until a formal appointment is made.
Ivor said: “I have lived in the county for thirty years and intend to remain. I have seen huge changes in that time; from a place with a sense of loss, to a beautiful place with a renewed optimism and bright future.
“It has been a privilege to be part of that change, and to do whatever I could to help our visitor economy, the businesses and the people of this remarkable county that I call home.”
Michelle Gorman, managing director of Visit County Durham, has worked closely with Ivor since he became Chair in 2009.
She said: “Ivor has supported the Visit County Durham board, team and tourism sector through the highs and lows of the last 14 years. His enthusiasm, extraordinary commitment and ability to bring people together have helped Durham to become the thriving visitor destination it is today.
“On behalf of everyone at Visit County Durham, I would like to thank Ivor for everything he has done for Durham and wish him the best of luck in his future endeavours.
“I would also like to thank Duncan Peake for agreeing to serve as interim chair. As chief executive of Raby Estates, overseeing major developments at some of Durham’s biggest visitor attractions, Duncan is perfectly placed to see us through this time of change.”
Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships and Visit County Durham Ltd board director, said: “It has been a pleasure to work alongside Ivor to develop Durham’s visitor economy, which makes such a valuable contribution to the county’s economy. Ivor’s love for Durham – it’s landscapes, heritage, culture and people – shines through and he will be a great miss to the board.”