Marketing body ‘key to saving tourism’ amid cuts

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TOURISM leaders have claimed a new marketing body which is due to be launched across the Harrogate district next year will be vital to preserve the multi-million pound industry amid Welcome to Yorkshire’s funding cuts.

The Destination Management Organisation (DMO), which involves leading players in the tourism industry, is aimed at boosting the area’s economy – with a key focus on leisure. Spearheaded by Harrogate Borough Council, the authority has provided £50,000 for the initiative, which it hopes will be match-funded by the private sector.

It is hoped the new body will help bolster tourism when an annual £10m cash injection for Welcome to Yorkshire comes to an end in the next financial year as the doomed regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, is replaced by Local Enterprise Partnerships in April.

The Yorkshire Post revealed in May that plans were being drawn up for the new DMO to mirror the success of similar bodies such as Visit York in the hope of boosting the Harrogate district’s tourism sector, which already contributes £500m annually and supports about 23,000 jobs.

Harrogate Borough Council’s cabinet member for cultural services, Coun Caroline Bayliss, has now confirmed the new DMO is due to be launched at Easter next year. It is understood the DMO will be aimed at encouraging more visitors who are attending conferences in Harrogate to return with their families to boost the leisure tourism sector.

Closer links are due to be forged with Welcome to Yorkshire to provide a defined marketing strategy for some of the Harrogate district’s main attractions, including Ripon Cathedral and Knaresborough Castle as well as the World Heritage site at Fountains Abbey and the Royal Horticultural Society’s gardens at Harlow Carr.

Coun Bayliss said: “Two years ago the private sector started saying it wanted a conference desk and the council thought it was a brilliant idea but that we needed more than that.

“We have been in discussion since May and it has now got to the stage where we have got a project manager starting in January and hopefully it will be ready to launch by Easter.

“We have got this brilliant organisation Welcome to Yorkshire but because of reduced funding it is concentrating on national and international marketing. They get people to Yorkshire and we want to make sure when they arrive here they stay in the Harrogate district and the surrounding areas.”

The DMO, which is being backed by major tourism businesses including Harrogate International Festivals, Rudding Park and the Yorkshire Event Centre, will not just be restricted to the Harrogate borough, and its boundaries will stretch as far as the Yorkshire Dales and Harewood.