New director of Harrogate Convention Centre announced

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The new director of Harrogate Convention Centre has been announced, with Paula Lorimer expected to start in early February.

The centre announced on Thursday the appointment of Ms Lorimer, who was previously the deputy CEO at Manchester Central from 2007 to 2014.

Harrogate Convention Centre's new director Paula Lorimer.

Harrogate Convention Centre's new director Paula Lorimer.

She also held roles as the sales director for International Confex and group sales director for Vision Support Services.

In a statement, Ms Lorimer said attracting high-spending visitors and changing "the perception of the north" were among her immediate goals for the centre.

“I want to make sure the hotels are full of high-spending delegates and the restaurants are busy," she said.

"I want to create new jobs for the town and change the perception of the north.

"Yorkshire is a very special part of the UK and I want people to engage with it."

She replaces outgoing director Simon Kent, who has headed the centre since 2013.

Ms Lorimer comes to Harrogate following an "extremely challenging year" for the event industry.

Harrogate councillors in November expressed concerns about a forecast £463k underperformance last year, stemming from a significant shortfall in lettings income.

However, last year's annual report to Harrogate Borough Council outlined positive new business gains as well as plans to ramp up efforts to regain lost business and encourage more repeat business.

Harrogate Borough Council, which owns the Convention Centre, commissioned a business study into redevelopment plans for the site last year.

The convention centre is one of the region’s biggest draws and brings an estimated £60m to the local economy yearly.

Lachlan Leeming, Local Democracy Reporter