Destination Harrogate – April Update

by John McGivern, Destination Events Manager

At the beginning of 2023 I spoke about new beginnings and how they go hand-in-hand with an expectation of change. With April having arrived we are once again embracing new beginnings; some change; and exciting opportunities for the future.

At our first birthday event at the end of March, we shared our achievements from the past year with our partners – including the increase in traffic to our digital consumer channels; the events and campaigns we have delivered; the increase in length of stay for our visitors in 2022 and a significantly increased economic impact from visits to the Harrogate area. Our local visitor economy is now valued at £637m and its vital contribution to the local economy as a whole cannot be underestimated.

With the new financial year now having begun, we can look forward to new successes from our marketing activity over the next 12 months. There are opportunities for new commercial ventures and we’re excited to welcome new partners on board, as we look forward to working together in new collaborations to showcase Harrogate and the wider area as a first-choice visitor destination.

Since April 1st we are also, of course, now part of the new North Yorkshire Council. In terms of destination management, working together in a new unitary authority offers us endless opportunities – we’re fortunate to have an incredible tourism offer across the whole of North Yorkshire. Our first action has been to commission a new Destination Development Plan for the North Yorkshire region, which will put us in a robust position as we apply together to become a Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP). This Government-accredited, county-wide tourism body would be responsible for promoting tourism in North Yorkshire and attracting events to the region – allowing us to maintain a strong regional identity, whilst continuing to draw on our local strengths. Together with partners at the North York Moors and Dales National Parks along with Visit England, we are pooling our knowledge and expertise to ensure that we have the strongest possible proposal.

It’s not all about change though, there is also continuity, and with an already-proven track record to build on, much of our activity for the foreseeable will be business as usual – with some exciting tweaks. Referring back to January again, I mentioned that Destination Harrogate had planned to explore new potential, whilst re-adopting tried and tested strategies for success. It will come as no surprise then to emphasise how delighted everyone at Destination Harrogate is to share the exciting news that we are extending the Harrogate Christmas Fayre from 11 days to 18 days this year. We have established a fantastic product with our Christmas offer, and the week-long extension to the Christmas market in the town centre offers huge potential for our local businesses, particularly in hospitality and retail, to seize upon the expected increase in footfall. While our residents, as well as our visitors, can enjoy the festive fun of the Christmas Fayre for a week longer than the previous two years.

Importantly, the decision to extend the 2023 Harrogate Christmas Fayre follows the call from local businesses, particularly in the hotel trade – who supported a longer Christmas Fayre in the town centre. It feels great to be giving our businesses just what they’ve asked for.

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