In a shock announcement, the board of the tourism body confirmed Mr Mason will step down from his role on Friday October 22 to pursue his next role, which has not been announced.
James Mason was appointed as chief executive in January 2020 to turn around the fortunes of the troubled organisation, which had become mired in an expenses scandal investigated by police and financial difficulties.
He was only the second chief executive in the organisation’s history following on from Sir Gary Verity, who resigned in March 2019 on health grounds amidst allegations about expenses spending and his behaviour towards staff.
Mr Mason has said the decision to leave the organisation “wasn’t an easy one.”
In a statement, he said: “I’m honoured to have held this position and to lead a team of talented hard-working people. I’d like to express my gratitude to them all along with the many wonderful people across Yorkshire I’ve met in this role.
It has been a privilege to work with you all, to promote Yorkshire to the world and stand shoulder to shoulder with you through a pandemic. I only wish the organisation well going forward and most importantly the thousands of businesses that make Yorkshire so unique.”
He continued: “The brief when I joined was to guide Welcome to Yorkshire towards steadier waters and drastically reduce costs.
“We achieved this despite all the restrictions we faced and never stopped innovating or striving for excellence. I’d like to thank everyone for their involvement in trying to bring the Tour de Yorkshire back especially our local authority partners with their continued commitment.
“These high-profile events will return to the region when the time is right.
“The decision to leave wasn’t an easy one as I have really enjoyed the role it but I’m excited about putting my energy into my new role. I will of course be committed to Welcome to Yorkshire and the staff until I leave before investing some time expanding ‘Bradford Memories’, a dementia group supporting individuals and their families living with the disease, as my mother does. Who knows, perhaps we can launch ‘Yorkshire Memories’. Watch this space…”
The chair of Welcome to Yorkshire, Peter Box, has paid tribute to Mr Mason’s “passion and creativity.”
He said: “We would like to thank James for the commitment and energy he has demonstrated during a particularly turbulent time for tourism and for the organisation.
“When James joined as chief executive almost two years ago there were many challenges to deal with.
“A positive plan was put in place to continue showcasing Yorkshire to the world and despite the COVID-19 pandemic adding a new and unexpected level of challenges for the tourism industry, James tackled all issues head-on and worked tirelessly.
“He embraced all aspects of the role passionately and with creativity. A board meeting will be arranged to discuss the next steps for Welcome to Yorkshire. We would like to wish James and his family well for the future.”