THIS COUNTY’S proud status as the one of the world’s pre-eminent visitor destinations is thanks, in no small part, to the groundbreaking work undertaken by Sir Gary Verity – and the whole Welcome to Yorkshire team – over the past decade.
Their vision, epitomised by the successful staging of the Tour de France in 2014 when Yorkshire basked in the international limelight, now means that the tourism industry is worth a reputed £8bn a year to this county’s economy in spite of not receiving the national support afforded to other regions.
Yet, given the sheer number of livelihoods and businesses that depend on visitor numbers being sustained, and actually growing in the future, many people’s futures will be allied to the decisions that Welcome to Yorkshire now take after Sir Gary’s resignation – a shock to many – was confirmed.
His departure not only deprives Yorkshire of one of its foremost global ambassadors, but it also overshadows preparations for this September’s UCI Road World Championships – another global cycling event that will showcase this county, and its scenery, to a global audience.
(https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/call-for-welcome-to-yorkshire-chairman-to-quit-over-shock-resignation-of-high-profile-chief-executive-sir-gary-verity-1-9669437|Call for Welcome to Yorkshire chairman to quit after Sir Gary Verity resignation|Read here}
Though Sir Gary cited ‘health grounds’ for his decision, it is also deeply regrettable that his tenureship also came to an end amid a scandal over his expenses and some alarming allegations over his behaviour towards staff which were acknowledged by official statements.
Like all public and private sector employers, Welcome to Yorkshire is expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity – and there should be no exceptions – as it faces up to national criticism and scrutiny for not acting sooner. The key, now, is for it to move swiftly to counter any damage to its hard-won reputation.
Though Sir Gary was its indefatigable figurehead thanks, in no small part, to his personal chutzpah, he – and Yorkshire – would not have enjoyed so much success, and prestige, without a dedicated team of staff who were committed to putting this county in the spotlight at every available opportunity. On occasion, their efforts received insufficient recognition and so we must to those people say thank you.
Yet, as WTY prepares to mark its 10th anniversary, and launch this year’s programme of tourism events, on Wednesday week at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, the onus is now on Ron McMillan, the organisation’s chairman, to confirm the next steps.
How does WTY intend to replace Sir Gary with a world-class successor – and when? How will it change its governance protocols to ensure the highest standards of integrity and probity at all times? And is any change of strategy planned with more – or less – emphasis on the hosting of world-class sporting events?
These questions, and many others, will require careful answers as celebrations to mark Welcome to Yorkshire’s 10th anniversary become overshadowed by the most damaging controversy to face the organisation since its inception. For, while Sir Gary will be a tough act to follow, this must not preclude Yorkshire’s tourism industry from showing similar ambition for the next decade.