Campaign crossing oceans to welcome the world to Yorkshire

If all goes to plan, this weekend, a little slice of Yorkshire will sail into the harbour at Singapore.

The yacht, unashamedly emblazoned with the pink Welcome to Yorkshire logo, set off in the Clipper Round the World race last summer and when it arrives in South East Asia it will have completed the fifth of 10 legs.

For those at the tourism body, the timing couldn’t have been better. At the World Travel Awards in Qatar this week, Welcome to Yorkshire won the best marketing campaign for the second successive year.

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News of the award, which saw Yorkshire beat off competition from the likes of Brazil, India and South Africa, was a chance to raise a few glasses of champagne, but for those businesses Welcome to Yorkshire represents, from the bed and breakfasts to the tourist attractions, hard statistics matter much more than industry gongs.

In Yorkshire, spending by overseas visitors increased from £33m in 2008 to £59m in 2010. Details from the last 12 months have not yet been published, but figures released by the Office of National Statistics this week showed foreign spending has not been dampened by the global recession. In the first 11 months of 2011, foreign residents spent £16.51bn during their visits to the UK – a six per cent rise on the previous year. Unsurprisingly, it’s a trend Welcome to Yorkshire is hoping to cash in on.

“Yorkshire’s tourism industry is made up of 25,000 brilliant businesses; their quality ensures we are able to compete on a global scale with the best in the world,” says Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. “The recent award also shows just how far we have come in the three years since Welcome to Yorkshire launched.

“However, we are definitely not resting on our laurels. Yorkshire is the most talked about place in Britain right now and we have plans to keep it that way for many years to come.”

With most overseas visitors traditionally heading to London, encouraging them to head north has been notoriously difficult and it’s a problem which can’t simply be solved by even the slickest advertising campaign. However, in the last few years, the name of Yorkshire has cropped up in some unlikely places.

Aside from the Clipper yacht, backing from Welcome to Yorkshire saw York Theatre Royal’s production of the Railway Children move to both Waterloo, the gateway for many international visitors, and Toronto. The organisation has also supported the transfer of Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s 75th play, Neighbourhood Watch, from Scarborough to Broadway.

The pink logo was never far away and with Welcome to Yorkshire also acting as a partner in the first major UK exhibition of David Hockney’s landscapes, which opens next week at London’s Royal Academy of Arts, Yorkshire is guaranteed an international audience.

“Last March we unveiled a new business plan and it is incredibly important for tourism businesses in the county to know that Welcome to Yorkshire is here to stay,” adds Mr Verity. “Shortly we will also unveil the next tranche of marketing activities to keep Yorkshire front of the mind nationally and internationally.

“The world has woken up to the attraction of Yorkshire and the challenge now is to keep the county as high profile as possible so that when people think about a break in the UK, they think of Yorkshire first.”