The chairman of Welcome to Yorkshire is facing pressure to resign amid claims that the county’s tourism organisation ‘lacks transparency’ following the departure of chief executive Gary Verity.
A leading Yorkshire tourism figure has called for Ron McMillan to leave the agency immediately after it was revealed how Sir Gary quit following an internal investigation over his behaviour towards staff and over his expenses payments.
Susan Briggs, director of The Tourism Network, an organisation which advises hundreds of small businesses and tourism bodies in Yorkshire, wrote in her blog: “I think the chair of the WTY board Ron McMillan should resign immediately.
“He has had a lifetime of experience in financial management so it’s just too ironic if he didn’t see what was happening under his nose. In the WTY statement, he said ‘business as usual’.
“That just can’t be - it’s far too complacent an attitude.”
Ms Briggs also called for the organisation to conduct a review of its activities and operate with greater public transparency.
The blog states: “I have raised concerns about the way that WTY is managed, by its lack of transparency over how significant sums of public money are spent and how decisions are made.”
It continues: “Gary’s cult personality dominated for quite some time and discussion was muted.
“It’s now time for a more open, honest discussion about tourism in Yorkshire, involving tourism businesses, local authorities and anyone who is interested in making sure communities benefit from the visitor economy. It feels like too many conversations happen behind closed doors, and we could be so much more productive if we collaborate.”
Ms Briggs also states how it is no longer possible to measure growth in the Yorkshire visitor economy since after the organisation got rid of its research department.
“Given the level of public funding, is the Welcome to Yorkshire Board transparent enough in all its dealings and activity?
“Would it be useful for board minutes to be published on the WTY website, to give confidence in the board’s transparency.?
A spokeswoman for Welcome to Yorkshire said: “Welcome to Yorkshire has a talented, creative and dedicated team who everyday work incredibly hard for Yorkshire, alongside all of our members and public and private sector partners. We are proud to have been a part of the transformation of this county’s profile over the last 10 years and want to make sure Yorkshire continues to thrive.’
John Blackie, former leader of Richmondshire District Council, said Welcome to Yorkshire should now switch focus to supporting grassroots tourism as cycling had dominated the agenda under Sir Gary’s leadership
He said: “There is no doubt that Gary was a super salesman in bringing the Grand Depart to Yorkshire.
“It was a fantastic coup. But the trouble with Gary Verity is that his flamboyance came with a downside.
“He was also a one-trick pony. Unless it was cycling he wasn’t interested."
Coun Blackie, an independent North Yorkshire Councillor for the Upper Dales, said more needed to be done on promoting camping and walking
He said: “The people who spend the most money in the Dales are the people who turn up with a cheap tent and then spend in the local economy.
"The next chief executive needs to recognise that there is more to tourism than just cycling alone.”
Mark Goldthorpe, head of policy for West and North Yorkshire Chamber of Commerce: “Gary has been a big asset for Yorkshire and it is a shame it has ended badly.
“Whoever fills the role needs to keep the momentum going. There is no doubt he has put Yorkshire on the world map."
Richmondshire District Councillor Yvonne Peacock, said: “Over the past ten years Gary has certainly put Yorkshire on the tourism map and has helped boost the economy in the county.
“There is no doubt that he has brought more people to the Dales an National Parks. Gary has been a tremendous force.
“I have know Gary very a long time, long before he became chief executive. We have always got on well
“It’s therefore very disappointing that he has resigned. I wish him all the best.
“It’s important that the good work at Welcome to Yorkshire continues with new people.”
A Leeds City Council spokesperson said: “We have always supported Welcome to Yorkshire and the incredible work they have done in putting the region on the map and showing everyone what a fantastic place Yorkshire is. We will continue to work alongside them in future.”