Better footpaths and more quality accommodation needed to boost tourism, says Welcome to Yorkshire director

Aysgarth Falls. Photo: Wehha.

Extra investment is needed to mend footpaths across England’s largest county and more quality accommodation must be created to maximise economic benefits from booming interest in the countryside, it has been claimed.

Members of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmond constituency committee also heard areas featuring a rich heritage and outstanding natural beauty were regularly being overlooked by tourism bosses.

David Shields, a director of Welcome to Yorkshire, told the meeting figures just released for the first months of this year showed Yorkshire was the only part of the country which had seen an increase in both overseas visitors and overseas visitors spend.

He said ongoing work to encourage visitors to stay in North Yorkshire included promoting paired attractions, such as Mount Grace Priory and Kiplin Hall and highlighting ‘honeypot sites’, such as Aysgarth Falls.

But councillors said the resulting tourism success was not evenly distributed and action was needed to showcase the culture, environment and heritage in areas such as the north-east of the county.

They emphasised the shortage of places for people to stay and the growing demand from visitors in rural areas.

Councillor David Blades highlighted the importance of a number of impending planning applications to increase the size of holiday sites, and said the county was experiencing exciting times, having successfully built on the legacy of the James Herriot stories, North Yorkshire Moors Railway and coast to coast walk to become “world leaders”.

Other members said tourism efforts needed to focus on publicising the county’s leading assets, such as the North York Moors National Park.

Cllr Bryn Griffiths highlighted how Welcome to Yorkshire’s Things to do and see in the Stokesley area web page was dominated by a photo of Harewood House stately home, 50 miles away, near Leeds, while Captain Cook’s village of Great Ayton barely got a mention in tourism brochures.

He added much of one of the county’s biggest attractions – its footpaths network – was “no longer easily walked upon these days” due to dwindling county council resources to maintain them.

Cllr Griffiths said: “It is regrettable because these visitors don’t just come for a short walk, they come to stay for a few days having seen a route on an Ordnance Survey map which can’t be walked.”

The authority’s leader, Councillor Carl Les, who is also a member of Welcome to Yorkshire’s board, said while more people lived in Yorkshire than Scotland and its economy was also larger, the region’s tourism budget given by central Government was a tenth of the size of that north of the border.

He said: “I think Welcome to Yorkshire do brilliantly well with the resources they have.”