Tourism body calls for emergency bail out

Less then a week after launching its recovery plan for the region’s £9bn tourism industry and on the day Boris Johnson announced that hotels and B&Bs could reopen, Welcome to Yorkshire is in need of cash.

In a letter sent by the organisation’s chair, Peter Box CBE to all of Yorkshire’s councils, the former leader of Wakefield council says that the body could be forced to close its doors if local authorities can’t guarantee an additional £1.4m.

The plea follows a fall in funding as a result of the current pandemic. In fact the organisation recently lost £1m of business rates funding from North and West Yorkshire in addition to the loss of £400,000 due to it suspending membership fees.

The breakdown of the request is £550,000 from West Yorkshire councils, £450,000 from North Yorkshire, £300,000 from South Yorkshire and £100,000 coming from East Yorkshire.

Speaking to last week, James Mason stated that the organisation needed to get creative and entrepreneurial in order to support its future. Since then he has confirmed a new personal membership will launch for the organisation charged at bet6ween £10 and £20 annually, which will offer a range of benefits to Yorkshire residents and the millions globally connected to the region.

Welcome to Yorkshire has been recreating itself after the departure of former chief executive and figurehead Sir Gary Verity in March 2019 after concerns about the governance and culture of the organisation, and how it managed its spending. The arrival of Mason in January and the appointment of new board members have sought to draw a line under its problems.

The letter from Box highlights that although the “emergency funds” would help keep the organisation going, they would also help it to develop income generating “initiatives” which will “contribute to the economic recovery” of the sector.

The letter adds: “Without commitment from all local authorities to contribute to the emergency funding that totals £1.4m, WTY simply cannot continue to operate and the WTY Board will be faced with a decision of not if but when to discuss the options of closing the organisation.”

The letter which was sent on Tuesday highlighted that if funding could not be confirmed ahead of the body’s Thursday board meeting, the board will have to consider closure just as the industry comes back to life and needs “an effective tourism agency that has established links and partnerships”.

Box ends the letter acknowledging that “The majority of local authorities have agreed to contribute to the emergency funding”. But calls “those of you [local authorities] who have not yet made a decision or if you have taken the decision that you are not able to support this request if you can reconsider?”

However with council’s across the region facing considerable overspend as a result of the pandemic, it is believed at least one authority is planning to decline the request.

Conservative leader of Ryedale District Council, Keane Duncan has apparently replied to Box claiming a “many” of his Ryedale colleagues “remain unconvinced about the future viability and credibility of the organisation.”

Duncan adds he believes “it falls to the organisation to prove its value via its actions and outputs at this critical time.”

Finishing his reply: “Until we see those results, and the financial outlook improve, we feel it would be reckless to contribute further taxpayer money. It is clearly unsustainable and unfair for local authorities to be asked to hand over greater and greater amounts of cash, every time told that if we do not do so then WTY will fold. It feels like a gun held to our heads.

“I really do wish you luck, but if ultimately you can not get back onto a level footing, the best thing for the public purse and for the tourism sector at this difficult time might actually be for W2Y to fold and a successor organisation to be established in a managed and controlled way.”

Click here to sign up to receive our new South West business news...