A SEARCH has been launched to find County Durham’s tourism superstar.

Visit County Durham (VCD), in association with Visit England and The Northern Echo, is seeking to showcase the very best in customer service offered to visitors to the county by creating a new award.

The prize, launched today (Tuesday, April 1) at the tourism agency’s Spring Conference at Auckland Castle as part of English Tourism Week, will go to the individual who, more than anyone else, goes above and beyond the call of duty to ensure visitors to County Durham have a “priceless experience”.

Durham County Council cabinet member Neil Foster, a VCD director, said: “It is the people that visitors meet that can turn a good holiday into a great holiday.

“That’s why we have launched the Durham Tourism Superstar Awards.”

Fellow VCD director Keith Bell, owner of Crook Hall and Gardens in Durham City, added: “We’re excited to be launching the scheme as this is an initiative that everyone, no matter where they live within the county, can get involved in.”

Visit England chief executive James Berresford, who visited Durham for last year’s Lumiere light festival, said: “Visit England’s Tourism Superstar campaign services to highlight the passion and dedication that abounds in the tourism industry in England.

“This award recognises the people on the frontline who meet and greet visitors on a daily basis and whose unfailing hard work and creativity ensures that visitors to England have an unforgettably wonderful experience.

“I’m delighted that Visit County Durham are running a local campaign and wish all of Durham’s tourism superstars the best of luck.”

The award is open to anyone working in the tourism industry in County Durham. To make a nomination, go to visitcountydurham.org/tourism-superstar or email: business@visitcountydurham.org

The closing date for nominations is Friday, May 16, after which judges will draw up a ten-name shortlist to put to a public vote.

The winner will be announced at the annual VCD garden party in late July and will go forward to the nationwide Visit England contest.

More than 17 million people visited County Durham in 2012 and tourism is worth £708m to the county’s economy, supporting more than 10,000 jobs.

The Northern Echo is the media partner for the Durham Tourism Superstar Awards.