How Welcome to Yorkshire can be saved after resignations – Philip Bolson

WELCOME to Yorkshire is again taking a battering at a time when the sector needs support.

Philip Bolson leads Welcome to Yorkshire’s ambassadors programme and runs business coaching company Mr B Hospitality.

We know that Yorkshire is the best place in the world, but we forget that right now there are amazing people doing amazing things. I wish that was what we were talking about.

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My support for the outgoing chief executive James Mason, and the other directors who have resigned, remains. The purpose of this comment is to add to the debate ahead of tonight’s board meeting as to where Yorkshire’s tourism agency goes from here.

James Mason has resigned as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, plunging the tourism agency into fresh turmoil.

From my experience any organisation needs commitment, a compelling vision, sustainable funding, a clear purpose, understanding of what it does, the right people, a plan and understanding of its impact.

Where I think WTY goes from here is pretty straightforward (I of course expect someone to tell me that it is not as simple as this).

Firstly, is Yorkshire committed to having a single organisation such as WTY? Those looking at Yorkshire from the outside may be forgiven for thinking not.

Philip Bolson leads Welcome to Yorkshire’s ambassadors programme and runs business coaching company Mr B Hospitality.

Therefore a debate needs to be had, but quickly. A debate between the right people and one that results in a decision. A debate that will provide clarity on what happens next. A decision that puts the first CEO’s legacy (Sir Gary Verity) to rest once and for all (whilst not forgetting all the positives) and gives whoever succeeds James Mason a fighting chance. A chance I sense he did not have.

Assuming that WTY continues, it needs a compelling vision that it strives towards, one that could be as simple as “to give everyone the opportunity to fall in love with Yorkshire”.

Funding has dogged the organisation for years. It is embarrassing for an organisation like WTY to seemingly limp month to month, cap in hand. I do not offer a solution here but a statement of fact. We either want it and believe in it or we don’t. If we do – find a way to fund it. If we don’t, close it. Simple.

Even with funding, those in an organisation need a reason to exist beyond an output. To have a common goal that they can get behind and that encourages action. A purpose such as “we exist to share our love of Yorkshire” could work. Everyone in the organisation should be driven by this alone.

Sir Gary Verity is the former chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Every decision should be driven by this purpose and vision – who leads it, who it recruits, the strategies it deploys, the people it partners with, the decisions it makes.

Some examples – does the current funding “structure” help us achieve our vision and purpose? Do I, as an employee, have the knowledge and tools to help “share my love of Yorkshire”? Does the Board have the bravery, skills, and energy to achieve the vision and purpose? Is the marketing campaign we are working on going to help people fall in love with Yorkshire?

Moving on, it needs to be clear about what it does:

Promote Yorkshire as a place to experience and stay.

Former Wakefield Council leader Peter Box is the under-fire chair of Welcome to Yorkshire.

Promote, champion, support, and celebrate the sector.

Help improve the health of the region.

Encourage investment and development.

To achieve anything it must have the right people. Too many public sector leaders will be a disaster. I believe that the Board should be led by someone with relevant experience from the private sector. This alone would help transform WTY.

Finally, any team must reflect the personality of the sector – energetic, creative, tenacious, fun, driven and caring. The following are the key things I believe need to be sorted immediately:
1. Create a “sustainable funding package”.

2. Recruit a capable Board that reflects the sector it represents.

3. Establish a meaningful purpose and vision.

4. Build the best team in the country.

5. Create and execute a commercial plan (points 1, 2, and 3 have to be in place to make this happen).

6. Shout about it. To members, visitors, schools, local authorities, mayors, businesses. Frankly anyone who wants to hear or needs to listen

I accept these may oversimplify but here is the crux of the matter. If there a desire and a willingness to do something special, it can be done – and swiftly.

I know a strong WTY would have a positive impact, supporting existing efforts to make inward investment an attractive option

So in summary; commit, fund, get the right people, execute a plan, give it a massive hug and 
let it get on with what it needs to do. And let’s see what happens next.

Philip Bolson leads Welcome to Yorkshire’s ambassadors programme and runs business coaching company Mr B Hospitality.

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