Council-backed North Yorkshire tourism body set for spring launch

Welcome to Yorkshire at Fan Zone Harrogate in 2019. The organisation collapsed last year. Photo: Jennifer Petrie.

A new council-backed tourism body for North Yorkshire is expected to be launched by spring next year — despite uncertainty continuing to surround what its functions would be.

A meeting of local authority leaders in North Yorkshire and York heard council officers’ discussions with tourism firms from across the region were set to conclude later this month, the outcomes of which would shape what type of organisation could be developed and its funding structure.

The meeting was told the development of a proposal for a replacement organisation to Welcome to Yorkshire remained at a very early stage, four months after it was placed in administration following years of financial and reputational issues.

While some council leaders say the collapse of Welcome to Yorkshire has seen the loss of potential significant interventions in the tourism economy this year, some councils have used their own staff to take on tasks previously undertaken by the tourism body.

The meeting heard it remained far from clear what type of publicly-backed tourism organisation was wanted across York and North Yorkshire, let alone Yorkshire as a whole, with different areas seeking a body with different functions.

Complications in deciding the way forward, the meeting heard, included agreeing potential deals with Wensleydale entrepreneur Robin Scott’s Silicone Dales, who bought Welcome to Yorkshire’s assets, including the rights to the Tour de Yorkshire, in April.

North Yorkshire County Council chief executive Richard Flinton said following further discussions between the council and the tourism sector a decision on the new organisation’s structure was scheduled to made before Christmas in the hope that the new tourism body could be launched by April next year.

He described the timescale as being “tight and ambitious”.

The region’s official tourism agency was placed into administration at the start of March after council leaders pulled the plug on public funding after years of reputational and financial problems.

Mr Flinton said while Welcome to Yorkshire’s assets had not been bought by a local government body, there was still “a lot of appetite” amongst councils for a body established to protect tourism, promote the brand of Yorkshire and pick up some of Welcome to Yorkshire’s work.

However, council chiefs for York and Harrogate highlighted their areas already had well-established tourism marketing and management services and was looking for a strategic regional body to support.

Harrogate council chief executive Wallace Sampson told the meeting it was important that organisations such Destination Harrogate did not lose their identity.

He said: “What we’d be keen to see is some integration with a region-wide body. We feel there are some strong benefits to marketing Yorkshire region as a whole because it has a strong brand. ”

After the meeting, North Yorkshire County Council leader Councillor Carl Les said: “What we’re looking at as leaders is more about destination management, not just destination marketing.

“It was always thought to have the proper conversations with people in the industry and the councils that it would take until the autumn before an option could be put before the leaders.”