Council paid hoteliers £3,720 to use name Destination Harrogate
Last updated Mar 2, 2022
Simon Cotton, who previously owned the rights to the name Destination Harrogate.

Harrogate Borough Council paid hoteliers Simon Cotton and David Ritson £3,720 for permission to use the name Destination Harrogate for its new tourism body, the Stray Ferret can reveal.

Destination Harrogate is the council’s destination management organisation, which promotes the district to tourists.

The council decided to replace its old Visit Harrogate name last year and give the organisation, which is headed up by Gemma Rio, a facelift for 2022.

However, the name Destination Harrogate had already been used by Mr Cotton and Mr Ritson since 2011 for the organisation behind the Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association awards.

Mr Cotton is the managing director of the HRH Group, which owns the Fat Badger, the Yorkshire Hotel and the White Hart hotel. Mr Ritson is the general manager of the Old Swan hotel.

Questions for council

According to the council’s openly available list of expenditures over £250, it paid Destination Harrogate Ltd £3,720 in September 2021.

The council has confirmed to the Stray Ferret that this money was used for the rights to the name Destination Harrogate.

The transaction raises questions about why the council felt this name was worth the money, and why it didn’t come up with a different name that wasn’t already in use, saving the taxpayer thousands of pounds.

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A Harrogate Borough Council spokesperson said other names were considered but “none reflected the purpose of the organisation as well as Destination Harrogate”.

They added:

“Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association Limited was paid the sum of £3,750 to transfer ownership and control of the business name and the domain name of Destination Harrogate to Harrogate Borough Council, which included the costs for winding up the company known as Destination Harrogate Limited.

“Destination Harrogate was selected as the most appropriate name for Harrogate district’s destination management organisation as it reflects the ambition of the organisation to showcase the district as an exceptional destination to visit, meet and invest. Other names were considered but none reflected the purpose of the organisation as well as Destination Harrogate.”

Typical sum

The Stray Ferret asked Harrogate-based intellectual property solicitor Andrew Clay for his opinion on the deal.

Mr Clay described the sum paid by the council as typical, although he wondered whether it chose the name before realising it was already in use.

He added:

“What is perhaps a little surprising is that before they adopted the brand Destination Harrogate that Harrogate Borough Council didn’t carry out a Google or Companies House search on the words Destination Harrogate. Either search would have revealed the existence of Simon Cotton’s company.

“Had they done that they could have chosen another equally appropriate available name and saved the tax payer several thousand pounds.”

We have published a subsequent article, which you can read here, after HHTA Ltd published a statement.