The director of a tourism consultancy claims that the success of cycling in Yorkshire was a 'smokescreen' which masked serious issues.
Susan Briggs, who runs The Tourism Network, also said that many business owners felt 'undermined' by Sir Gary Verity when he was chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire. She has even called for an independent body to take over the running of the Tour de Yorkshire cycle race from the under-fire organisation.
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Susan, of Masham, wrote to The Yorkshire Post to draw attention to what she believes were failings by the entire Welcome to Yorkshire board to prevent the expenses scandal which has engulfed the agency and led to Verity's departure. He has also been accused of bullying staff.
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She says some victims who contacted her about Verity's behaviour have 'still not recovered' from the experience, and that the success of cycling tourism meant that those responsible for it could avoid answering difficult questions about their conduct.
"My inbox contains numerous emails from people (including business owners) who felt ‘bullied’. 'Less-than-gentlemanly behaviour' is a terrible understatement and underplays the victims’ suffering. Some have still not recovered."
The board's failings
"Welcome to Yorkshire has now said there will be investigations into both the expenses claims and the allegations of poor behaviour towards staff. But following recent comments by WTY’s chair Ron McMillan, I disagree that we must ‘trust the existing board to ensure that as far as possible, it’s business as usual’. ‘Business as usual’ is the last thing we need and will lead to WTY’s demise.
"The existing board has not shown an ability to impose checks and balances to ensure good governance and value for money for the taxpayer and business owners.
"A review is necessary and we need to all be made aware of the outcome. Rebuilding trust is essential."
"Your columnist Jayne Dowle says WTY has promoted Yorkshire ‘without generous central government support’. This is not true. The Tour de France and Tour de Yorkshire weren’t attracted solely through Sir Gary Verity’s ‘charm’.
"The Department of Culture, Media and Sport provided £10m towards the Tour de France. There has been other government funding. There has also been more than generous local government funding for Welcome to Yorkshire - several millions in fact."
The role of others in Yorkshire's success as a visitor destination
"WTY has played a strong role in transforming the image of Yorkshire. However, we should not forget the role played by the many new and exciting attractions, accommodation and activity businesses in the area, nor the marketing activities undertaken by smaller organisations, local tourism officers and business owners.
"The industry is made up of thousands of businesses and organisations who all play their part. I’d argue that we can all now be much more successful by establishing more meaningful industry collaborations."
"I’m not sure how much Sir Gary did for the cause of One Yorkshire devolution. He may have had his own related aspirations. Many think a One Yorkshire is more likely now that he has resigned."
The 'smokescreen' created by the success of cycling
"Cycling tourism has brought pleasure to millions and some economic benefit to the region, but there is a growing body of people who feel strongly it has overshadowed support for other forms of tourism in Yorkshire. It has also acted as a smokescreen which meant few questions were asked, resulting in the current situation.
"Sir Gary’s departure will not stop TDY from happening in future, but there may need to be consideration of whether it might be desirable to create an arms-length body to run it, leaving WTY to look at other sectors of tourism."
Looking to the future
"I’d agree that Sir Gary instilled self-confidence in Yorkshire. I don’t think we will lose that with his departure. Some organisations and individuals felt undermined by him – now they may flourish.
"WTY was never just Sir Gary - his tenure was thanks to having a very talented, hard-working team behind him. I’m looking forward to meeting with some of them to talk about the next steps.
"Yorkshire tourism is also not just WTY – it’s a myriad of businesses, a plethora of organisations and people committed to its future."
Susan set up The Tourism Network marketing consultancy 30 years ago and has worked in the industry for decades, having run a B&B and holiday let in the past. She is on the organising of the committee for the Masham Sheep Fair and runs the Dales Tourism Network and North York Moors Tourism Network on a voluntary basis.