Tourism numbers are set to be boosted to one of Yorkshire’s most popular destinations as efforts are made to capitalise on the multi-million pound conferencing trade.
The marketing drive in Harrogate is also looking to use the opening stages of the Tour de France next year to showcase the region to an international audience as the spa town will feature on the route.
Tourism chiefs met yesterday to officially launch Visit Harrogate, which aims to promote the town and surrounding district and mirror the success of similar bodies such as Visit York. Tourism in the Harrogate area already supports about 23,000 jobs and is worth £680m to the local economy.
It is hoped the new initiative, which will see attractions and tourism industry chiefs from Boroughbridge, Knaresborough, Masham, Pateley Bridge and Ripon working together, will increase visitor numbers.
Visit Harrogate’s project director, Angela Harris, said: “We want to increase not only the number of visitors but the length of their stay and their spend across the district. We have so much of which to be proud and we need to work together to promote it nationally and internationally.”
Visit Harrogate’s chairman, Peter McCormick, added: “This is the first time that all the towns in the district have been involved in a single initiative to promote them. Each area attracts visitors and it would be great if we could encourage them to widen their stay by visiting other places in the district while they are here.
“We think that the Tour de France will be a huge springboard for the area because the race goes through the whole of the district. It has to be a springboard to market the area to the rest of the world.”
He said the district also has a strong conference trade and it is hoped those attending events can be persuaded to bring their families along and take advantage of the attractions the area has to offer. In the past, while the concept of creating a new tourism body had been agreed, concerns have been voiced over whether it would become a reality amid the public sector funding cuts.
The launch was held at the Harrogate International Centre (HIC) and its director, Simon Kent, is keen to work closely with Visit Harrogate to help attract more business tourism, conferences and events.
He said: “We have great shops, hotels, restaurants, some fabulous countryside, castles and even the Tour de France next year so it’s vital we all work together to tell the world what we have to offer in this wonderful part of Yorkshire.”
Among those attending the launch were Lizzie Glithero-West, the head of cultural tourism and special tourism projects for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Louise Stewart, Visit England’s strategy and development director.
Visit Harrogate, a District Tourism Destination Management Organisation, was formed last year but only launched yesterday after the intervening months were used to the infrastructure in place.
It is supported by Harrogate Borough Council, Harrogate Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Destination Harrogate, a local hotels association and the Yorkshire Agricultural Society.
The organisation attracted £100,000 from Harrogate Borough Council and North Yorkshire County Council in its first year. Harrogate will continue to support it in its second year if the DMO also attracts private sector support.
Earlier this year, it was revealed one of the UK’s biggest annual theatre festivals is moving to Harrogate in a deal which is expected to bring a potential boost of more than £1m to local businesses. Organisers of the 21st International Gilbert & Sullivan Festival will bring the three-week spectacle to Yorkshire in 2014.
The Visit Harrogate website can be found at www.visitharrogate.co.uk.