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Yorkshire DMO goes into administration

by Martin Fullard

Welcome to Yorkshire, the county’s destination management organisation (DMO) has been put into administration.

The news will come as a major blow as before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold the events and tourism industries were worth £9bn to the Yorkshire region. The DMO had launched a comprehensive recovery plan in 2021 to attract tourists and event organisers back to the region. A four-week digital campaign, launched on 4 June 2021, focused to attract people to the cities of Bradford, Hull, Leeds, Ripon, Sheffield, Wakefield and York.

It was reported that September 2019, Welcome to Yorkshire was granted an emergency loan of £500,000 by North Yorkshire County Council in order to pay its staff. During the pandemic, the total number of staff has been reduced from 49 to 22.

A statement released on 1 March confirmed the board of Welcome to Yorkshire has taken the decision to place the organisation into administration, which referenced “legacy issues”, believed to refer to allegations of misconduct, as cause for the decision.

“The past three years have been incredibly difficult for Board members and staff as we have endeavoured to deal with well-publicised legacy issues.

“These matters, coupled with the impact of Covid and the task of securing sufficient funding from the public and private sectors to place Welcome to Yorkshire on a sound financial footing, have made the situation increasingly challenging.”

The statement cited the de Bois review of Destination Management Organisations, which made 12 recommendations to government, among which was a core funding of £50m to be distributed among a new structure of tiered destinations around England.

“[The de Bois review] could have created the opportunity for Welcome to Yorkshire to be given the structure and long-term funding required to move on, grow and develop into the organisation we believe it should be on behalf of Yorkshire and its people,” the statement added.

“Sadly, the decision of the Yorkshire Leaders not to commit to a multi-year funding package, whilst understandable, removed that pathway and means that Welcome to Yorkshire cannot continue in its present form.”

A new £67.5m venue for the region

In January 2022, a plan was submitted to open a new £67.5m events arena in North Yorkshire capable of hosting up to 5,000 people.

The new arena, which was suggested could be opened by 2024, would host an all-year programme of entertainment, sporting, conference, exhibition and social events.

It was described by developers as a “major catalyst” for the regeneration of the area and would sit on the former Redcar Bowl site which has stood empty for the past seven years.

Philip Deighton owner of developers Destination Developments said: “The news about the closure of Welcome to Yorkshire is very unfortunate but does not affect the plans to develop the Coatham Arena in Redcar which is a privately-funded enterprise.
It will, of course, significantly add to the attractions that the county has to offer and provide a destination for thousands of visitors attending year-round entertainment, sporting, conference, exhibition and social events.

“It is hoped that any successor organisation will support our arena plans and, in due course, assist in its marketing.”

As recently as November 2021, Welcome to Yorkshire had been named as the strategic partner for global technology festival, Tech Week Humber, at Hull’s Bonus Arena.

The festival which took place from 8-12 November and included both virtual and in-person events. Across the five days, the event included a lineup of speakers, exhibitors, networking opportunities, a global audience, as well as directory access to investors and potential customers.

Rob Adamson, Michael Kienlen and Daryl Warwick of Armstrong Watson LLP have been appointed as joint administrators of Welcome to Yorkshire on 1 March 2022.

The joint administrators intend to trade the company for a period while they finalise a strategy to secure the best possible result for the creditors of the company.

What is the de Bois Review?

Nick de Bois is a former Conservative MP and past-chair of the Event Industry Board, who was commissioned to write an independent report on Destination Management Organisations (DMO) in England, and how they can be better shaped and structured to help shape the UK’s post-pandemic recovery.

The de Bois Review: an independent review of Destination Management Organisations in England lays out 12 recommendations, both for the visitor economy and the Government.

Money is the key to unlocking the UK’s potential. To restructure the nation’s DMO so that they can drive business, de Bois is calling on £50m core funding.

When David Cameron was elected in 2010, DMO funding was effectively stopped, and that gave rise to far smaller and far less well equipped DMOs who, try as they may, have not always been successful in bringing big event business to their respective regions.

The way in which inbound event and tourism business is brought in, much of which comes from overseas, is inefficient and ineffective, de Bois noted in his review.

Read the report in full here.

The 12 recommendations

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