Companies gear up for Le Tour at Y14 extravaganza

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity trying out Zone Leisure's teardrop caravan at Y14. (S)
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity trying out Zone Leisure's teardrop caravan at Y14. (S)

Businesses from across Yorkshire converged on Harrogate on Thursday, when the town played host for the first time to Y14, Welcome To Yorkshire’s annual tourism industry extravaganza.

The Tour de France-themed event had always promised to be popular, and around 2,500 people packed into the main auditorium at Harrogate International Centre to hear about the tourism body’s latest plans for the summer’s cycling spectacular.

The razzmatazz of the main presentations was followed “below stairs” by a buzzing business fair featuring close to 40 companies and organisations from around the county – many of them by virtue of Welcome To Yorkshire’s corporate membership scheme (slogan: “A county like ours needs businesses like yours”).

David Shields, area director at Welcome To Yorkshire, said: “It’s a Yorkshire event – in Harrogate. This year’s exhibition is our biggest ever, and it’s a great opportunity for our members to showcase themselves to the whole region’s business community.”

Zone Leisure, of Sherburn-in-Elmet, had brought along one of their 1920s-inspired teardrop caravans, which, all branded in Grand Départ yellow, will be used as a travelling Tourist Information Centre by Welcome To Yorkshire at events between now and the big event in July.

But there were other companies present that had referenced the Tour de France more obliquely, so as not to upset the famously prickly guardians of the brand. Exhibition stand maker Merit Display, from Doncaster, was trading heavily on its strapline “Born in Yorkshire. Riding the Passion.”.

Marketing manager Laurie Mitchell explained: “The way Gary Verity has taken the whole event and the passion he’s shown from day one, we’ve grasped that – we’re born in Yorkshire – and we want to make everyone aware of the benefits it will bring.”

Lottie Shaw’s baked goods, which is based on the Tour de France’s stage-two route through Elland, had pulled out all the stops to link in with the cycling theme. The firm is producing gingerbread bikes, a portion of the proceeds from which will go to charity, and has commissioned a local artist to create a painting called the Bike Race, which now adorns the company’s parkin packaging.

Owner Charlotte Shaw said she was there to try to expand her distribution channels.

“I’m mainly targeting smaller outlets, like B&Bs and cafés, that wouldn’t usually think of stocking us. And it’s working – I’ve made quite a few contacts today, and even had interest from Fountains Abbey, so it’s already been well worth it.

“We’re a good fit for something like this,” she added.

“Parkin’s really good for cyclists.”