Hotel-owning councillor questions council’s tourism strategy

Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, Lib Dem councillor for Masham and Fountains division.

A councillor who owns the Swinton Park Hotel near Masham says a new tourism body for North Yorkshire is “not in the interests” of the hospitality sector and an organisation should be created for the whole of Yorkshire instead.

Felicity Cunliffe-Lister, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Masham and Fountains, was speaking at a full meeting of North Yorkshire Council on Wednesday.

North Yorkshire Council is coordinating a new tourism strategy to boost the county’s £1.5 billion tourism industry which is home to popular destinations like Castle Howard, Whitby Abbey and Bettys tea rooms.

A draft destination management plan is due to be finalised by the end of June before a bid is submitted to government to become a Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP), which will open the door for funding.

LVEPs are replacing Destination Management Organisations, such as the former Harrogate Borough Council’s Destination Harrogate, following an independent review.

However, Visit Hull and East Yorkshire was awarded LVEP status last month and Cllr Cunliffe-Lister said that by having more than one LVEP in Yorkshire it risks wasting taxpayer money as LVEPs compete against each other to attract tourists.

The councillor also referred to Welcome To Yorkshire, which was the official tourism body for Yorkshire but entered administration in 2022 following a high-profile expenses scandal. It still exists but is no longer funded with public money and is now owned by private business Silicon Dales Ltd.

Cllr Cunliffe-Lister said:

“The Yorkshire brand is well-established and well-regarded nationally and internationally. It’s not in interests of the hospitality sector that this is fragmented.

“Should North Yorkshire achieve LVEP status it will not deliver value for money if it is then used to be pitched as a competitor destination against East Yorkshire or other regions in Yorkshire.

“What is being done to establish a generic county-wide brand that all regions will subscribe to and support and what steps are being taken to co-ordinate with other councils to achieve this?”

In response, Conservative executive member for open to business, Derek Bastiman, said “work is being carried out on that” but added it will take time as the council is still only in its second month of existence.

Cllr Bastiman added that workshops are taking place across North Yorkshire where people and councillors can add their input into the new tourism strategy. He added:

“It’s vitally important as much work is done on the coast as is done in the Craven area to Richmondshire or Selby.“

Speaking earlier this month, Conservative council leader Carl Les called the development of the new tourism strategy a “major milestone“ for the authority. He said:

“We have such a breadth of tourism businesses and attractions which we can be rightly proud of, but we want to ensure that the sector can grow and flourish in the future and help support the region’s wider economy.”