“Make it York” tourist organisation heading for £1 million loss.

Faces closure within weeks unless bail out agree by York Council

A report to a York Council meetings shows itsMake it York subsidiary could post a £1.2 million loss during the present financial year.

It means that the Directors of the, wholly Council owned, tourist business could be forced to wind up the organisation within the next few weeks.

The Council is being asked to step in and provide a substantial financial subsidy. The proposals include plans to;

  1. Waive the requirement for MIY to make a revenue return to the council in 20/21 in respect of trading activity across the city centre
  2. Defer the first two quarters rent due from MIY in 20/21 for use of premises on Museum Street and Silver Street offices
  3. A loan facility from the council of £300k to be accessed by MIY only if necessary
  4. provide a letter of guarantee to MIY with access to a maximum of £1m over the next 2 years should it be required.

MIY normally produces a net income to the Council of around £35,000. The company is responsible for tourist information services in the City, runs the Shambles market, organises special events like the Christmas Fair (cancelled this year) and promotes the City as a business destination.

Private sector membership of the organisation has collapsed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with the hospitality industry being one of the hardest hit. Redundancies at MIY are expected.

The immediate hit on the Councils budget will be the loss of income from the Shambles market. This will be in the order of £474,000. That figure may grow substantially if the organisations recovery plan is not successful during the next few years.

MIY is the second tourist organisation to seek taxpayers help. The Council agreed to provide a further £55,000 subsidy for Welcome to Yorkshire at its last meeting.

MIY balance sheet (click)

£55,378 York grant to “Welcome to Yorkshire”

Never any worries about Tour funding, tourism chief insists | Yorkshire Post

It looks like the York Council will pay the beleaguered “Welcome to Yorkshire” (WTY) tourism body over £55,000.

The controversy wracked regional body has lost a lot of subscriber income recently as a result of the impact of the pandemic.

Following a scandal about profligate spending, the organisation reformed last year and took on a Wakefield Labour politician as its chairman.

Ironically the Wakefield Council, along with Hull, is now refusing to pick up its share of the rescue package.

The reason for some scepticism is clear.

York businesses benefit from marketing campaigns aimed at getting more tourists to visit the region. The City is an obvious first port of call for foreign visitors in normal times.

The visitor economy will need help to get back on its feet over the next year or two. Visit York (part of Make it York) leads for the City on tourist promotion. Relations in the past with WTY have been strained with little evidence of coordination.

Improvements are planned and a Service Level Agreement has been published (click).

What the SLA lacks are measurable outcomes at street, shop, bar, attraction and bed occupancy level. This deficiency is shared in the rather woolly documentation which guides the Council’s, similarly uneasy, relationship with Make it York.

Make it York are expected to make a bid for additional funding at a Council executive meeting in December

WTY should cut back on its sponsorship activities. Tagging horse race meetings, cycle races, garden exhibitions, award dinners etc may be OK in good economic times, but not today.

It should focus on its core advertising programme and let local tourist bodies take the lead in attraction planning.

The most successful organisations are locally rooted and driven by committed, experienced leaders.

In York organisations like the BID have proved what can be done with relatively modest resources and good communications.

WTY could learn from them.

Coronavirus York updates; 25th June 2020

Museum Gardens reopening

The Museum Gardens are due to reopen today (Thursday) at 10:30am. They will close at 6:00pm.

Deaths and test results

The were no additional deaths reported at local hospitals yesterday. There was also no increase in the number of positive test results (23/6/20).

£144 per person York cost

According to the BBC, the York Councils income shortfall in the wake of the health crisis is equivalent to £144 for each person in the City.  The Council has already said it faces making cuts of £24 million in services.

The worst hit Council – the Highlands in  Scotland – has a £411 shortfall per person, largely as a result of declining visitor numbers. The Leeds Council has a £61 million shortfall and says that it may not be able to balance its budget this year.

Physician, heal thyself?

Reports coming out of West Offices, say some Councillors are to be offered counselling  to help them cope with the pressures of lockdown and the COVID crisis.

Welcome to Yorkshire

According to some reports, the Yorkshire tourist organisation could fold shortly. It depends for part of its income on a complex rates pooling arrangement which involves local authorities with a business rates surplus cross funding those with a deficit. The fall in business rates income as a result of the COVID crisis means that there will be no surplus to share, leaving WTY appealing for a direct subsidy from cash strapped local Councils.

”Welcome to Yorkshire” parts company with colourful Chief Executive

Sir Gary Verity has been sacked by the Yorkshire Tourism development company “Welcome to Yorkshire”.  Sir Gary left the company on Friday citing “health” reasons.

An article in today’s Sunday Time puts more flesh on the bones of the announcement.

It includes worrying allegations of bullying and expenses irregularities.

Welcome to Yorkshire (WTY) replaced the Yorkshire Tourist Board which used to have its headquarters in York on Tadcaster Road. WTY moved out and currently lets the Tadcaster Road building to another organisation. Its registered office address is now in Leeds.

 Tourism in York is run via “Visit York” which in turn is partly funded by the “Make it York” Quango. Over £1 million a year is paid by York taxpayers to that organisation. It is not however directly linked with WTY.

York does get some benefits from WTY publicity. A local race meeting has been sponsored and some advertising has taken place at the railway station.

Welcome to Yorkshire receives grants from both central and local government. Its Board includes four Councillors (3 Tory and 1 Labour). They are Carl Les (North Yorkshire), Richard Cooper (Harrogate), Stephen Parnaby (East Yorkshire) and Steve Brady (Hull)

Other Board members mainly have business backgrounds. The Chair is Ron McMillan who was formerly with Price Waterhouse.

Two other Directors left the company in March

WTY is a private company limited by guarantee. Its detailed expenditure – and income – is largely opaque. However, it is most widely known for sponsorship of sporting events. These include cycle races. cricket and horse racing.  The level of hospitality associated with these events is likely to be the subject of conjecture over the next few days.

WTY had a turnover of just over £4 million in the year to March 2018 (the last figures available).

About half this went on the cost of employing 46 staff. One Director – understood to be Sir Gary – received £243,453 .

WTY reported a profit of £251,173 in the year.

As a private company Welcome to Yorkshire is not subject to Freedom of Information legislation.

However with a significant part of its income coming from taxpayers, many will feel that more transparency is required in its dealings.