Coun Richard Cooper said he was sad to learn that the county’s troubled tourism agency had gone into administration after Yorkshire’s region’s council leaders announced they would no longer fund it and intended to set up a new organisation.
”I am sad that Welcome to Yorkshire has folded. The Harrogate district relies on tourism for over £600m of economic impact and thousand of jobs,” said Coun Cooper.
“It is important, therefore, that whatever comes after Welcome to Yorkshire as a regional tourism body is successful. I will offer that body the full support of Harrogate Council.”
The council leader revealed that, in 2020/21, Harrogate Borough Council paid £31,472 for its membership of Welcome to Yorkshire, which was run by chief executive Gary Verity before he stepped down in March 2019 following an investigation into his expenses.
Coun Cooper said the sum had included £10,000 from the council’s Holiday Tourism Marketing Budget and £21,472 from funds set aside from the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool surplus.
“The council in latter years did not give money directly to Welcome to Yorkshire,” Coun Cooper said. “ Any membership fee or grant was paid for through the Leeds City Region Business Rates Pool.
“This pool of cash was made up of cash from business rates growth and would ordinarily have been returned to the Government.”
After remarks by Screen Yorkshire chief executive Caroline Cooper Charles to MPs on the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Committee suggesting the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in 2014 had failed to deliver any long-term tourism boost for Yorkshire, Coun Cooper defended Welcome to Yorkshire’s embrace of cycling events which, he added, had directly helped the local economy.
“Welcome to Yorkshire achieved much, including bringing the Tour de France to Yorkshire and, specifically, to Harrogate.
“The Tour de France in 2014 generated large TV audiences across the world, highlighting what an incredible place the Harrogate district is.
“The economic, social and cultural impact report carried out at the time showed more than 300,000 spectators watched in person, with 180,000 coming from outside.
“Collectively that involved spending a total of £17.6million. This has not only made a significant contribution to the local economy, it has also left a lasting impression on future visitors to the district.”