Harrogate council spends £2.2m on new tourism body in first year
Jan 9, 2023
Destination Harrogate led campaigns which included bringing a Helter Skelter to Harrogate.
Destination Harrogate led campaigns which included bringing a helter skelter to Harrogate.

Harrogate Borough Council spent £2,224,000 on Destination Harrogate in its first year operating — almost a million pounds more than budgeted, figures reveal.

The council’s draft statement of accounts, which will be discussed at a meeting this evening, lists income and expenditure for the year ending March 31, 2022.

Destination Harrogate was officially launched as the council’s destination management organisation last year.

It has four streams aimed at promoting tourism, hosting events, bringing in investment and supporting culture and was launched amid concerns the authority had a “fragmented” approach to tourism and marketing.

Its campaigns have focused on promoting the district as a health and wellbeing destination to capitalise on Harrogate’s spa town heritage.

Campaigns in 2021 included ‘Destination Christmas’, which saw a giant helter skelter installed in the town. In summer 2022, the organisation helped organise a four-day celebration on the Stray for the Queen’s platinum jubilee.

Destination Harrogate’s website also provides details about how businesses can invest in the district, including at the new Harrogate West Business Park on Burley Bank Road.

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The report found the organisation generated £342,000 in income during 2021/22 and there was an overall net spend of £1,942,000.

However, it says the authority spent an additional £946,000 more than budgeted.

As reported by the Local Democracy Reporting Service last week, the council paid out £220,000 in exit packages last year with the majority due to the Destination Harrogate restructure that merged marketing teams at Visit Harrogate and Harrogate Convention Centre.

A council spokesperson said:

“Aside from investment to premises, funded through reserves, much of the expenditure during the destination management organisation’s early stages was in staffing the new service to ensure the organisation was fit for purpose and suitably flexible to respond to changing customer expectations/market developments and seasonal demand.

“While the 2021 restructure enabled the right mix of skills and experience to be in place to deliver the destination management organisation’s vision and strategy, the new service was no greater in size, in terms of employees, staffing costs or departmental budget than the previous service that it replaced.

“Prior to March 31 2022 the destination management organisation launched a new events bureau, Events Harrogate, and implemented successful marketing activity to increase awareness of the Harrogate district as a visitor destination and boost subsequent visitor expenditure – for example, the award-winning Destination Christmas campaign in 2021.

“Industry data shows that visitors to the Harrogate district were staying longer and spending more money with local businesses in 2021 than they did prior to the pandemic.

“Throughout 2022, Destination Harrogate delivered a wealth of successful events to bring more visitors into the Harrogate district, alongside successful marketing campaigns promoting the district as a first choice health and wellbeing destination, destination for garden-themed holidays and Christmas destination.

“In addition to visitor-facing marketing campaigns, the destination management organisation has also, through Events Harrogate, been working to bring more events into the district, while Invest Harrogate continues to attract inward investment in the district to encourage long-term growth in the economy. We can look forward to further successful outcomes for Destination Harrogate as we move forward into 2023 and beyond.”