Harrogate council reveals £165k cost of 'Visit Harrogate' website revamp and new marketing system
Harrogate Borough Council has revealed that revamping its tourism website and launching a new "destination management system" will cost more than £165,000.
The authority has awarded a four-year contract to Ipswich-based marketing firm Jacob Bailey Group to rebuild and maintain VisitHarrogate.co.uk which it took over control of in April last year.
It said the outdated site had suffered from years of "historic underinvestment" and that it needed replacing to boost next year's tourism season which will "decide the fate" for many Covid-hit hospitality businesses.
However, the council was forced onto the defensive as it faced criticism that the contract was handed to the southern firm without a competitive tender process.
The authority said a full tender process would have taken six months to complete and that the"exceptional circumstances" of the pandemic justified a relaxation of procurement rules.
It also argued “very few companies in the UK have the expertise, skills or experience" to carry out the work, adding "to the best of our knowledge there are none in the local area."
The council said Jacob Bailey Group would not just provide a new website, but also "a complete set of tourism management tools," including databases of marketing information for accommodation, businesses and visitor attractions, and event and booking services.
“A front-end website is just one part of this overall system," it said.
Before being taken over by the council, Visit Harrogate was first launched in 2013 by now-dissolved firm Welcome to Harrogate Ltd.
The new contract with Jacob Bailey Group is worth £165,319 and was finalised on Tuesday.
In a new statement released today, the council said the company's work will support plans to merge Harrogate's various tourism bodies into one council-controlled organisation.
The merge will see Visit Harrogate, Harrogate Convention Centre's marketing team and the district's tourist information centres come together as one new "destination management organisation".
A council spokesman said: “This new destination management system (DMS) will allow our destination management organisation (DMO) to effectively attract new leisure and business visitors to the district through the work of Visit Harrogate and a new conference bureau.
"This is vital in order to support the recovery of the Harrogate district’s visitor economy."
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter