Welcome to Yorkshire accused of 'lacking of transparency' and treating members with 'disregard'

The owner of one of Yorkshire’s top attractions has announced it will cut ties with Welcome to Yorkshire, claiming the tourism board has “never been less transparent” and treated members with “disregard”.

Sir Thomas Ingilby claimed Welcome to Yorkshire has “become completely unaccountable” as it has failed to meet with key members for several years

Sir Thomas Ingilby, of Ripley Castle and Gardens, said the organisation has “become completely unaccountable” as it has failed to meet with key members for several years, despite promising to improve transparency after the expenses scandal in 2019.

The former Welcome to Yorkshire board member, who resigned from the role in December 2019, made the claims in an email sent to 93 organisations whose membership is up for renewal, after a member of staff sent out a group email.

Sign up to our Business newsletter

The tourism board said it remains in regular contact with members and it has become more transparent since 2019, by holding all board meetings in public and publishing board agendas and minutes online.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive James Mason

Several other members have leapt to the defence of Welcome to Yorkshire, with Fiona Gardham, owner of The House at Hawes, claiming “they’re actually more accountable and open than they’ve ever been”.

Sir Thomas’s email stated: “The board has never treated its members with such disregard as it currently does. There was a gap of over two years between the publication of annual accounts and by this autumn there won’t have been an AGM for three years.

“Sadly the company hasn’t even held a meeting of the Private Sector Members Group, who represent the bulk of Yorkshire’s tourism industry, for over two years.”

He added: “It is clear that the board attaches a very low priority to the opinions and needs of its industry members, and that it isn’t interested in hearing our thoughts or suggestions.

“It is also clear from the list of recipients on this email that vast numbers have simply voted with their feet. I never thought that I would see this day, but today, after 50+ years, we are going to join them in leaving when our membership term expires.”

Some of the claims have been disputed, as Welcome to Yorkshire said it last met the Private Sector Members Group in November 2019 and the group has been updated on the ongoing review of governance.

The tourism board states the accounts dating back to March 2019 have been filed and “this period precedes the current make-up” of the board of directors”.

Chief executive James Mason said: “I’m proud of the way the Welcome to Yorkshire team, under real duress, has continued to act as the amplifier for all that is good and happening in Yorkshire over the last 18 months.

“With regular campaigns across a variety of platforms and widespread media coverage we have fought hard to ensure people choose Yorkshire first as a place to visit. Let’s not forget the challenge we were faced with at the end of 2019.

"We had a huge rebuilding job to do pre pandemic and whilst we are far from perfect, we have restored our brand value, reconfigured our total financial architecture which was out of control and reduced our staff by over 50 per cent, this all whilst continuing to provide a service for our private sector and public sector members.

"Membership has plateaued after we lost many because of the much highlighted investigations in 2019 and in some areas, we are now seeing growth and we’d like to thank the thousands that have stuck with us."