Yorkshire ‘will challenge Scotland for golf tourism crown’

A group of ladies teeing off whilst playing a round of golf at Headingley Golf Club, Leeds. Picture: James HardistyA group of ladies teeing off whilst playing a round of golf at Headingley Golf Club, Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty
A group of ladies teeing off whilst playing a round of golf at Headingley Golf Club, Leeds. Picture: James Hardisty
Yorkshire will aim to challenge Scotland as the nation’s top holiday destination for golfers over the next few years, a tourism chief has said.

James Mason, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, outlined the agency’s intention to promote both golf and walking holidays in the region after becoming closely associated with cycling in recent years.

Mr Mason was speaking at an agency board meeting last week which took two days after Welcome to Yorkshire had helped arrange the Ian Woosnam Senior Golf Classic pro-am tournament at Ilkley Golf Course where invited guests included Wales manager Ryan Giggs and former Leeds striker Robbie Fowler.

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He told the meeting that while the agency was still keen to continue its association with cycling, it sees potential tourism opportunities in other areas as well. Under the leadership of former chief executive Sir Gary Verity, WtY brought the opening stage of the Tour de France to Yorkshire in 2014 and subsequently established the Tour de Yorkshire cycling event but this year’s race was cancelled due to coronavirus and talks are still taking place with cycling bosses over whether it will return in 2021.

Players at Cleckheaton Golf Club. Picture Bruce RollinsonPlayers at Cleckheaton Golf Club. Picture Bruce Rollinson
Players at Cleckheaton Golf Club. Picture Bruce Rollinson

Mr Mason said: “I have made no secret of my intention to keep the Tour de Yorkshire going for the foreseeable future. Those conversations are ongoing but the reality is cycling can only be one of the many high prestige events across a 12-month calendar.

“Golf tourism is a multi-million pound industry. Scotland is the rightful holder of the crown but we are going to be hot on their heels in the years ahead. We want to attract golfers from all across the world.

“Golfers spend three times what other visitors bring.”

Mr Mason said he was delighted by the success of the socially-distanced Ian Woosnam event, which was Welcome to Yorkshire’s first event of the year after coronavirus wiped out most of the planned calendar for the first three-quarters of the year.

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“Going forward Welcome to Yorkshire wants to be a trailblazer to show that Covid-safe events can and should go on,” he said.

Mr Mason also told the meeting that Welcome to Yorkshire is pressing ahead with its ‘Walkshire’ initiative to sell Yorkshire as one of the best places for walking holidays in the world.

“Walking is the most accessibly and inclusive activity people can do,” he said. “There are ongoing conversations about the Tour de Yorkshire but Walkshire can start on January 1.”

Mr Mason said attracting walkers can substantially help the region’s visitor economy.

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“The numbers add up. Walkers spend more than cyclists and spend longer in towns and cities.

“They spend more often, eat more, drink more tea, drink more beer.”

The meeting also heard that Welcome to Yorkshire has received money from VisitBritain to advertise the county nationwide. The funding has been agreed under the Government’s campaign to boost domestic tourism following the pandemic.

“It is one of the biggest awards given to any Destination Marketing Organisation in the country,” said Mr Mason.

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“We have reached all four corners of the UK and have had billboard and bus stop adverts in places within a two hour drive of Yorkshire.

“We expect the reach to be anywhere between 20 million to 40 million engagements. It doesn’t directly benefit Welcome to Yorkshire in terms of a management fee but it does allow us to work really hard for an industry that really needs support now.”

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James Mitchinson

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