Do not repeat mistakes of Welcome to Yorkshire, tourism bosses warned
A meeting of North Yorkshire Council’s transition scrutiny committee heard councillors call for authority to protect the Yorkshire brand, take more heed of the views of small businesses and work to attract international events without losing oversight of official’s expenses or the consequences of tourism on communities.
Councillors were told the authority was weeks away from submitting a Destination Management Plan (DMP) to VisitEngland to join neighbouring areas such as East Riding, Durham and Cumbria in becoming a Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP), to gain more national funding and support.
Officers told the meeting at County Hall in Northallerton they had consulted extensively with the sector on the framework which would lead, influence and coordinate all of “the aspects of our destination which contribute to a visitor’s experience”.
They said the plan would take account of the needs of visitors, residents,businesses, and the environment, joining all with an interest in the industry responsible for ten per cent of the county’s economy.
It is planned to bring Yorkshire LVEPs together in a Destination Development Partnership, which would then identify collective strategic priorities. In addition, the council is also part of a group looking at marketing North Yorkshire at a national and international level, the meeting was told.
Councillors heard while the council’s ambition is to increase the £2bn visitor spend by about five per cent a year and increase the proportion overnight visitors to 20 per cent of all visits, there were concerns the latter aim could exacerbate housing and staff accommodation issues in some areas.
An officer told members the council was confident the plan’s priorities reflected what the industry was wanting.
He added: “We have a really ambitious set of targets to grow it year on year and to retain more overall visitors. We get a lot of day visitors but there is a real shift to try and getovernight stays and the retention time being longer.
“We want that plan to be private sector-led, but also with a clear steer from where the local authority is taking the lead. We are not under-estimating our leadership role in this, but we also want the sector to own and help us deliver these ambitions.”
However, Helmsley division councillor George Jabbour highlighted how comments by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which represents 4,000 businesses in the county and York, on the council’s plan had been “very far from glowing”.
FSB comments included: “Businesses are frustrated after being excited about the new start that this is where we have landed – they don’t see the purpose of the DMP or what need it answers due to the confused plan and lack of vision.”
Another comment reads: “It is not accessible or exciting to read, there is nothing for businesses to buy in to or get behind.”
Coun Jabbour said: “North Yorkshire County Council has too close a relationship with Welcome to Yorkshire. There were a few scandals involved there. It is a concern from the start we don’t get as close and that the new council makes the same mistakes as before.
“The reality is we have got to make sure we have something quite ambitious and hopefully we will have enough time to change and improve the final plan.”
Officers said they would meet the FSB to address the concerns, but some businesses appeared to have confused the management plan for a strategy.
The committee’s acting chairman, Coun Bryn Griffiths, told officers: “Don’t lose the Yorkshire brand. The Yorkshire brand is so strong. Don’t degenerate it.”