Crisis-hit Welcome to Yorkshire 'must go back to basics', top ambassador says

Welcome to Yorkshire’s remaining board members must go “back to basics” and reassess the tourism agency’s central purpose and funding model at a crunch meeting next week, the leader of the organisation’s ambassadors scheme has said.

Philip Bolson was appointed earlier this year to lead Welcome to Yorkshire's ambassador programme.

Philip Bolson, the owner of Mr B Hospitality and a former general manager of the Grand Hotel in York, was appointed earlier this year to lead the agency’s Yorkshire Ambassador programme which includes the likes of Paralympian Hannah Cockroft helping to promote the region.

Mr Bolson told The Yorkshire Post he was “extremely disappointed” about the forthcoming departure of chief executive James Mason, who is leaving Welcome to Yorkshire on October 22.

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But he said he believes the agency still has an important role to play in the county – as long as fundamental questions about the purpose of the organisation are addressed.

He said a board meeting taking place next week to discuss the future of the organisation should aim to start developing a more sustainable funding model for the agency after years of financial challenges, but also reassess what the aims of the organisation are.

“What I want is them to be having the conversation: why are we here, what is Welcome to Yorkshire and how do we see it impacting the region?”

He said there is a danger that if Welcome to Yorkshire ceased to exist, tourism promotion would become “fragmented” between different regions.

“We are one county and I do think that there’s still room for a body to promote that, but not only just promote it but also champion hospitality and to champion the people who work in the sector. I think there’s a huge need for an organisation like Welcome to Yorkshire and the opportunities are boundless.

"I do think there’s a future of Welcome to Yorkshire but the funding has got to be sorted and the big questions have to. That is what the board are there for and that is what I would expect them to do.”

He added that without rethinking how Welcome to Yorkshire operates, bosses risk going back to a “Groundhog Day” scenario of a new chief executive having to plead with councils for funding to keep the organisation alive rather than focusing on promoting tourism.

Mr Bolson said he intended to stay on in his ambassador role despite the other resignations from the organisation.

“As of today, I can still make a contribution. Everyone has to make up their own mind and I worked with James Mason on setting up the Ambassadors scheme. But Yorkshire is still here, Welcome to Yorkshire still exists and you know if I can play a small role in supporting them then I will do.”

Praise for outgoing chief executive

Philip Bolson praised outgoing chief executive James Mason, who is leaving the organisation less than two years after taking charge, in January 2020.

Mr Mason is the only the second chief executive in the organisation’s history and came into the post following a reputational and financial crisis hanging over the organisation after an expenses scandal involving his predecessor Sir Gary Verity.

Mr Bolson said: “I think James did a great job. What a tough gig coming straight in after Sir Gary, straight into Covid and with Brexit still floating around in the background. That’s a tough ask for anyone.”

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