Carl Les, leader of North Yorkshire County Council and a board member at Welcome to Yorkshire, confirmed the idea was under active consideration after it was revealed local authority bosses are investigating the possibility of buying the company’s brand name, along with other assets connected to it.
Welcome to Yorkshire went into administration on Tuesday after council leaders determined they would not provide any more public money to the troubled company and would instead seek to set up a new destination marketing organisation to promote the region which will be funded by local taxpayers.
The agency's collapse follows several years of reputational and financial crises.
One of the other agreed decisions at a private meeting of the Yorkshire Leaders Board - which is made up of the region’s council leaders and two metro mayors - on Monday was to commence negotiations with WtY administrators “with a view to acquiring, at appropriate value, assets including the brand name”.
Coun Les confirmed the idea of naming the replacement body Welcome to Yorkshire was under active consideration.
A project group set up by the Leaders’ Board will make formal recommendations about the new organisation - including what it should be called - in May.
Coun Les said retaining the existing name “will be one of the options” under discussion.
“Some of us believe that the brand name Welcome to Yorkshire might have connotations locally but talking to people in other parts of the country, they think Welcome to Yorkshire is a strong brand.”
Speaking before Coun Les’s confirmation that the use of the name is being considered, Keane Duncan, a former leader of Ryedale Council, cautioned against any potential attempt to use the Welcome to Yorkshire name for the new organisation.
“It is a tainted brand. I think a fresh start would be much better and the tourism sector would welcome it,” he said.
Coun Duncan was leader of Ryedale Council when the authority refused to contribute to a local authority bailout of Welcome to Yorkshire in summer 2020 that ultimately raised £1.2m to keep the organisation going at the time.
He said it was vital the replacement for Welcome to Yorkshire is driven by the tourism businesses and industry experts rather than the public sector.
“It has got to have private sector involvement, it can’t be public sector led,” said Coun Duncan, who is leader of the Conservative group on Ryedale Council.
“It can’t be an extension of local authorities, which is what Welcome to Yorkshire became and has failed.”
He added: “It has always been obvious that Welcome to Yorkshire was not going to survive.
“The travesty of the situation is that so much taxpayer money has gone into an organisation that hasn’t been able to deliver for the tourism sector.”
Paul Scriven, a Liberal Democrat peer and former Sheffield Council leader who has been a long-standing critic of Welcome to Yorkshire, described the proposal as “going back to the past”.
A spokesperson for the Yorkshire Leaders Board said: "A project group will be tasked with working up a new destination marketing organisation and will be in dialogue with administrators regarding any asset owned by WTY that may assist that aim. Any decision on what that might be will be a decision for the Yorkshire Leaders Board.
"We will have more information following the next Leaders Board, which is scheduled for May."
Lead administrator Rob Adamson said discussions with the Leaders’ Board are yet to begin.
“We are aware of a statement, however as yet, we have had no communication from the Yorkshire Leaders Board,” he said.
“We have however had several expressions of interest regards Welcome to Yorkshire assets, although these discussions are very early in the stages of the process, as such we are unable to comment further.”
Assets of the organisation include the Yorkshire.com website and its social media channels, with over 270,000 followers on Twitter and 160,000 on Facebook.
It rents offices in Leeds and recently sold the former Yorkshire Tourist Board building in York to repay a £500,000 emergency loan it took out from North Yorkshire County Council in September 2019.