Harrogate tourism set for major overhaul

The Tour De Yorkshire, one of the major tourism events that has occurred in Harrogate over the last several years.
The Tour De Yorkshire, one of the major tourism events that has occurred in Harrogate over the last several years.

One of Harrogate's leading tourism bodies will come under council-control as part of a radical overhaul of the district's tourism strategy.

The integration of Visit Harrogate, which will now be managed by Harrogate Borough Council, is part of a major rejig which will see the district's various bodies molded into one organisation.

A new senior role will be created to helm the district's tourism operations, under the title of Destination Marketing.

That senior role which will lead two specialist 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.

The new structure will see Visit Harrogate, which is currently operated as a public/private sector partnership model and receives £50k in council-funding every year, integrated into council's operations.

According to a council report on the matter, reviews of the existing tourism bodies showed the current approach is fragmented, particularly with regard to marketing.

Cabinet members unanimously endorsed the proposal earlier this month.

"There's been some good work done by Visit Harrogate, great relationships have been fostered... the employees of Visit Harrogate have put in a lot of effort," Coun Stan Lumley, whose portfolio includes tourism, said.

“But now is the time is to move forward to look at a model that can build on that and consolidate what has been done into one unit."

Council leader Richard Cooper said the move "will multiple the effectiveness of everything we do".

"It'll tie it all in together and point it all in the same direction and align everything the borough does in tourism," he said.

The move will see the new Visit Harrogate undertake marketing activity as well as the operation of the district's museums.

Currently this activity is split between Visit Harrogate, the Tourist Information Centres and the Museums Service, which operates the Pump Room Museum, the Knaresborough Castle Museum and the Mercer Art Gallery.

The other major activity will be undertaken by Marketing Harrogate - the wing which will research and develop event bid proposals, manage the ambassador programme, accommodation co-ordination, exhibitions and promotion activity.

While the full financial implications of the move aren't known, a report on the matter says that initially there would be a saving of £50k per annum from no longer providing a yearly grant to Visit Harrogate.

The report states that "integrating all the councils tourism activity will help to ensure a seamless coordination between marketing, promotion, visitor information and product development of the visitor economy" while "creating an overarching Destination Marketing function, led by the council".

The integration of the various teams into one organisation is expected to take 9 to 12 months to complete.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter