Visitors to the North Sea Tall Ships Regatta Blyth 2016 will be able to navigate around the county using a taxi service with a difference.
A new training scheme, run by Active Northumberland and Northumberland College, aims to help taxi drivers boost their skills and knowledge to become chauffeur guides.
Drivers attending the part-time 12-week course will be able to develop their knowledge of Northumberland’s visitor attractions and learn how to be a tourist guide.
On completion of the course, drivers will become approved Northumberland Chauffeur Guides and Ambassadors for Northumberland.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors are expected to attend the Regatta between Friday, August 26, and August 29.
Coun Val Tyler, cabinet member for arts, leisure and culture at Northumberland County Council, said: “Tourism is the second biggest employer in the county and it’s fantastic that our taxi drivers are going the extra mile to boost their knowledge.
“We really would like our visitors to have the best experience possible when they come here for the Tall Ships and using a chauffeur guide will be a great way of exploring England’s most rural county.
The county council, in partnership with the Port of Blyth and Sail Training International, is hosting the prestigious Regatta, which is being sponsored by Fergusons of Blyth.
Sheena Towns, head of rural tourism academy at Northumberland College, said: “This is just one strand in our tourism strategy that seeks to make of the most of the county’s growth in tourism.
“We’re also supporting Northumberland County Council with its Young Ambassador and Town Hosts schemes.”
Drivers from Blyth-based Union Taxis are the first in Northumberland to take the course and will be awarded a NCFE Level 2 in Travel and Tourism.
Graham Cavener, from Union Private Hire, said: “Eleven of our drivers are attending the Northumberland College course brushing up on their A-Z of heritage and tourist destinations.
“This is just the beginning of a new and exciting journey – it’s a first for us and something that can really help Northumberland residents and visitors to enjoy our beautiful county.”
Drivers from North Tyneside-based Blueline taxis are also taking the course and teaming up with Union Private Hire to provide a network covering sites from Hadrian’s Wall to Bamburgh Castle.
Martin Lawlor, chief executive, Port of Blyth, said: “Taking a ride with a chauffeur guide will be an excellent way of enjoying the Tall Ships Regatta and finding out more about the history of Blyth and places such as Hadrian’s Wall and the National Park.
“Event guides have been a successful part of major events like the Olympics and we think these new training schemes will add real value to our tourist offer.”
Regatta organisers are looking for volunteers to work at the event as a Ships Liaison Officer (SLO) or a Town Host. To apply visit www.tallshipsblyth2016.com/volunteers or email firstname.lastname@example.org
For information onthe Regatta, visit www.facebook.com/tallshipsblyth2016 or on Twitter @TallShipsBlyth or email email@example.com