Yorkshire casts net for fans of country sports

Tourism chiefs will focus on Yorkshire's countryside
Tourism chiefs will focus on Yorkshire's countryside
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LEADING rural campaigners have launched a bid to attract country sports enthusiasts from across the globe to Yorkshire and capitalise on the multi-million pound tourism sector centred on angling, shooting and horse-racing.

Ambitious plans have been unveiled to place the region at the forefront of the burgeoning popularity of the countryside pursuits which are already responsible for bringing in more than £480m to Yorkshire’s economy each year.

Country sports have enjoyed a renaissance in recent years after being endorsed by high-profile celebrities including Madonna and James Bond actor Daniel Craig, who is understood to have visited North Yorkshire for shooting weekends.

A formal bid is now being prepared to secure funding from the Government as well as the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to bolster an online campaign to attract a new generation of enthusiasts. It is hoped the success of similar projects in the South-West of England and Scotland which have reaped huge financial benefits will be brought to the Yorkshire region.

The bid is being spearheaded by Andy Brook, the spokesman for the Leyburn Business Action Group which represents a dozen independent retailers. Mr Brook’s own business, a countrywear outfitters called Royals of Leyburn, relies on tourists for nearly half of its trade.

He said: “The potential for boosting the region’s economy from country sports is huge, and we want to mirror the success of what has happened elsewhere in the country.”

Research has shown there are more than four million country sports participants in the UK, although the promotional drive will aim to tap into lucrative overseas markets. It is thought there are up to 38 million country sports enthusiasts in America alone. The Yorkshire Post revealed in 2010 that property developers and casino owners from the USA’s epicentre of entertainment, Las Vegas, as well as Middle Eastern businessmen had travelled to the region to take part.

A study published last year revealed that horse racing is worth nearly £230m a year to Yorkshire’s economy and is directly responsible for 2,300 full-time jobs. It is estimated that shooting is worth £120m, while angling brings in a further £133m annually.

The Countryside Alliance’s regional director for the North, Simon Hamlyn, has helped organised a meeting next month with the region’s tourism body, Welcome to Yorkshire, and Mr Brook to discuss the proposed marketing campaign. Mr Hamlyn helped secure £1.6m in funding for the South-West’s publicity drive which was launched in 2009, although he admitted a similar figure would not be available now for Yorkshire amid the Government’s austerity drive.

But he added: “Any project that helps to develop country sports including shooting and fishing in Yorkshire will be welcomed and supported by the Countryside Alliance. There is a phenomenal potential that can help drive forward the region’s economy. Money is extremely tight in the public sector at the moment, but if there is the will to get this moving, then hopefully it will attract funding from private businesses.”

A bid for £20,000 is due to be submitted next month to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, while it is hoped a similar amount of funding can be secured from the LEP.

Welcome to Yorkshire’s North Yorkshire area director, David Shields, said: “We have some of the finest countryside on the planet. With such things like fantastic race courses and great places to fish, the county’s countryside is a great attraction for visitors and initiatives like this will boost the Yorkshire tourism economy.”