As I've said in previous articles, Welcome to Yorkshire may be the most prominent organisation involved in tourism in Yorkshire, but it's not the only one. Organisations like Visit York, the two National Parks, area tourism networks (I run DalesTourism, and the North York Moors National Park), local authorities, and many other bodies all play a role.
Given the need to increase tourism revenue and reduce dependence on public funding, there's an urgent need to find a way forward that really works for tourism businesses, builds back better and creates a more sustainable, positive tourism industry. How can we fill gaps, avoid duplication and be more productive?
The following are a few notes on a possible way forward.
Some activities will always need to be undertaken at a local level, where relationships with businesses are strongest. This is particularly the case in rural and coastal areas where the majority of businesses are small and owner-run.
Activities by local organisations, networks, National Parks & local authorities
Funding for these activities could come from local authorities, businesses and project funding bids.
Welcome To Yorkshire
There is currently very limited Yorkshire-wide promotion of business tourism to attract conferences, corporate hospitality and large scale events, or work to attract the travel trade. Both these sectors require specialist knowledge and are best attracted by a regional organisation, working in partnership with others. During normal times (post Covid), these sectors are major revenue generators.
Larger businesses and corporate chains are more likely to benefit from business tourism and travel trade bookings, and have budgets to support this activity. This could be an excellent revenue stream. Other funding for Welcome to Yorkshire activities is likely to come from sponsorship.
At a more local level, particularly in rural and coastal areas the industry is dominated by small businesses who are now less likely (this is a nationwide issue) to pay for membership fees to a regional organisation. Even before WTY's issues with the former CEO, membership was starting to decline because the market has changed to such an extent and their marketing was through other channels. Given that small businesses will be involved in more local activities as outlined above, there's a danger of duplication. However, Yorkshire has a significant number of larger businesses that may be more able to help fund WTY activities.
Additional funding for WTY could come from commissioned campaigns, by groups of businesses, a particular sector or local authority where WTY is given a clear brief to undertake a particular campaign or activity, acting as a regional marketing services agency.
I've worked in tourism marketing for over 30 years, developing strategies & practical solutions for accommodation, attractions, activity providers, food & drink businesses. These are some of the tourism industry issues I'm concerned about. I'm writing here about Yorkshire but most of the issues are relevant elsewhere.