'Visit Harrogate' website to be scrapped and replaced by new site to support sector's Covid recovery
A website promoting tourism in Harrogate is to be scrapped and replaced with a new version as part of a major overhaul of the district's visitor strategy.
The borough council has revealed plans to rebuild VisitHarrogate.co.uk which it took over control of in April from dissolved firm Welcome to Harrogate Ltd.
The council said the ageing site - first launched in 2013 - "has served us well" but now needs replacing for next year's tourism season which will "decide the fate" for many Covid-hit hospitality businesses.
A council spokesman said: “Our current website has served us well and receives over 800,000 visits a year from visitors looking for days out, places to eat, events and much more. In the seven years since it was launched the digital world has transformed and for us to achieve our ambitious goals we need a website that is fit for the future.
“This development will provide a website to attract future visitors to the Harrogate district.”
The council said the current site has suffered from "historic underinvestment" and that its design has been "hindering destination marketing activity".
Councillor Stanley Lumley, the council's cabinet member for culture, tourism and sport, will hold a meeting next week to appoint marketing consultants Jacob Bailey Group to build the replacement site.
The company is set to be appointed without a competitive tender process as the council said there are "exceptional circumstances" due to "Covid-19 creating an economic crisis within the visitor economy. "
If approved, the new website will go live in "early 2021" with the same web address.
It comes as the council has appointed a new head of destination management to oversee a merging of the district's various tourism bodies into one council-controlled organisation.
Gemma Rio is overseeing the merging of Visit Harrogate, Harrogate Convention Centre's marketing team and the district's tourist information centres.
She is also leading two areas - Marketing Harrogate, which is focused on bidding to secure new events as well as raising the profile of the district to attract more visitors, and the new Visit Harrogate, which is focused on looking after visitors when they arrive.
Harrogate Borough Council said the cost of the new website can only be revealed after contracts with Jacob Bailey Group are signed.
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter