Welcome to Yorkshire to apply to emergency fund to keep tourism bodies afloat

James Mason is Welcome to Yorkshire's chief executive. Picture: Bruce RollinsonJames Mason is Welcome to Yorkshire's chief executive. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
James Mason is Welcome to Yorkshire's chief executive. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire is to apply for new Government support towards staff wages and covering operational costs during the coronavirus lockdown.

The agency has confirmed it will be making an application to receive a share of a new £1.3m emergency fund announced by the Government to support local tourism organisations.

Tourism has been particularly hard-hit by the global pandemic and resultant 'stay at home' measures, with fears that the Yorkshire economy will lose billions of pounds as a result this year.

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Yorkshire economy on course to lose billions from tourism collapse

The organisation had already been in financial trouble before the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, taking a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council last September to prevent it running out of money and being unable to pay staff that month.

Since the start of lockdown measures in the UK, Welcome to Yorkshire has furloughed around one-third of its 34 staff. The new Government fund is aimed towards paying the wages of staff whose roles are deemed to provide "crucial business support services" and cannot be furloughed.

Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive James Mason said: “We welcome the news today from the Government and in particularly the Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston of the new £1.3 million emergency fund and I can confirm Welcome to Yorkshire will be making an application to receive monies to cover the salary costs of essential staff currently providing crucial business support services to our members across the county.

"We are all working extremely hard to support businesses through this crisis and our website is seeing a huge amount of traffic from visitors wanting to access both the latest government advice and support, alongside a host of resources and articles we are uploading regularly.

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"These include suggestions on how business owners can creatively continue to trade or promote their offers - for example, our ‘Buy it, bank it, enjoy it later’ voucher scheme which highlights the option of booking a future meal, overnight stay or holiday at one of the thousands of establishments in Yorkshire that need our support now from a cashflow point of view.

"As it stands we can apply for up to £2500 per month per employee for a maximum of two staff members who have not been furloughed and are currently providing important business support services and a further £5,000 for operational costs incurred as a result of the pandemic over a three month period.”

Tourism Minister Nigel Huddleston said: "At the moment it is of utmost importance that everyone plays their part and stays at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

"However, we also need to act now to help the tourism sector be as strong as possible when we get through this pandemic. Destination Management Organisations will play a vital role in this recovery and this fund will support their essential work."

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VisitEngland Acting CEO Patricia Yates said: "Tourism has been one of the earliest and hardest hit of all economic sectors and this fund will help to ensure DMOs can continue to provide crucial support and expert guidance to the hundreds of thousands of small-to-medium sized businesses that make-up England’s tourism sector.

"Our intention is to get the funds out quickly to DMOs with a light touch application process as we work with them in recovery planning, to ensure that tourism rebounds and once again becomes one of the most successful and vibrant sectors of the economy."

The money for the emergency scheme has been taken from the Government's existing Discover England Fund.

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