A hub of activity, Welcome to Yorkshire’s ‘Y21’ conference was a packed programme of high-profile speakers and tourism announcements, held from Tuesday 30th to Wednesday 31st March.

With over 250,000 impressions and engagements on social media a large virtual audience tuned in to watch Yorkshire hosts, TV’s Dr Amir Khan and multi-Gold-winning Paralympian Hannah Cockroft MBE, DL, who were joined in the studio (socially distanced) by Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive James Mason, for the live show from 10am to 11.30am.
The announcements included:

  • As part of Welcome to Yorkshire’s 2021 Walkshire campaign Walkshire.com … the Tour de Walkshire which will be a fundraising campaign held throughout May – encouraging all to walk/run/cycle/push and encourage charity donations for Yorkshire Cancer Research. This year the Tour de Walkshire will be in place of the annual Tour de Yorkshire international cycle race, which due to the worldwide pandemic has had to be postponed until 2022

  • Digital advancements: the introduction of a Welcome to Yorkshire App to assist everyone visiting the county, a new look online This Is Y with a ‘Talkshire’ podcast, sustainability in marketing comms, plus further growth in social media activity, reach and organic progression (Welcome to Yorkshire already has an annual social reach of circa 20 million engagements and a global brand reach of over 23 million)

  • Accessibility: Welcome to Yorkshire to launch an Accessible Yorkshire membership hub, will be working with members to improve and develop the county’s accessibility offer and on a five-year comms plan to promote accessibility in tourism

  • Welcome to Yorkshire’s 2022 annual campaign will celebrate the county’s fantastic food and delicious drink scene, from Michelin-starred restaurants to street food, there’ll be something on the menu for every day of the year

  • This summer Welcome to Yorkshire will host no less than 9 prestigious national and international professional and amateur golf events, with plans for further events, continuing on from the immense success of the Ian Woosnam Senior Classic tournament which was held in September 2020 at the stunning Ilkley Golf Club, with SGH Sporting Events. Golf is a big hit and a great visitor ‘attraction’ with brilliant benefits to the county. The economic value of golf in the UK is £4.2bn, with 81% coming from domestic tourism, that’s £628m. There are 4 million golfers in the UK and a golf tourist spends on average £359 per visit which all goes into the local economy.

Under the theme “Reopen, Recover, Rebuild” with a focus on innovation and diversity across the tourism industry, Y21 was guided by Welcome to Yorkshire’s strategy to promote the county as a place to Visit, Live, Work and Study. High-profile guest speakers included Strategy and Communications Director from VisitBritain - Patricia Yates, CEO of Screen Yorkshire - Sally Joynson, Managing Director for Nations and Regions at Channel 4 - Sinead Rocks, Leeds Bradford Airport CEO - Vincent Hodder, CEO and Principal at Northern School of Contemporary Dance - Sharon Watson MBE, CEO at The Piece Hall - Nicky Chance-Thompson, former Sky Bet chief executive Richard Flint, and many more.

The Y21 launch show was followed by a wealth of webinars and masterclasses aimed at assisting, informing, inspiring and supporting businesses in hospitality, travel and tourism to emerge from the most turbulent of years as successfully as possible. Y21 also highlighted the importance of tourism, and how businesses can effectively engage in positive steps related to investment, conservation, digitisation, infrastructure, research and the development of skills across the county.

Director of Strategic Delivery at Welcome to Yorkshire, James Mackenzie said, “The inspiring line-up of presenters and opportunities shared at Y21 has paved the way to bridge cutting-edge research and technology. With innovative business practice and thinking, this presents a contemporary understanding of Yorkshire’s future in tourism and hospitality.”

Introducing the importance of studying in the region, Executive Director, Dr Peter O’Brien, from Yorkshire Universities shared some staggering statistics for untapped potential, stating there are 200,000 students in higher education across the county, 40,000 of which are from overseas.

Collectively, the sector contributes £3bn to the economy and students spend an average £11,000 each in pubs, restaurants, attractions, transport etc. This also leads to a healthy jobs market with a pool of 69,000 graduates a year in Yorkshire to draw from. This somewhat untapped sector is also a key approach from Welcome to Yorkshire to better engage with a younger audience, across the academic scope and into the alumni.

CEO of Welcome to Yorkshire, James Mason said, "It’s been an amazing couple of days celebrating the county’s tourism industry and working with incredibly influential individuals across the sector, to amplify the key points to help businesses to get back up and running as they Reopen, Recover and Rebuild. Remember tourism pre-pandemic in Yorkshire was worth a staggering £9bn to the economy, employed almost 225,000 people and if the North of England was a country, it would be the 21st largest economy in the world. The enthusiasm from everyone at Y21 and across the county to work together to successfully emerge, promote and support tourism going forward is something to strive for and be proud of.”

We would like to thank everyone who was part of Y21 including Yorkshire’s four regional LEPs, our event partners - Sheffield City Region, Humber Local Enterprise Partnership, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, demonstrating true collaboration to recover the wider economy.”

Working with VisitBritain and through a collaboration of partnerships, Welcome to Yorkshire sees opportunities for strong growth as travel resumes, first domestically for the staycation market and then in 2022 for the inbound market as international travel regains confidence and certainty.

To watch Y21 online and all of the informative webinars: https://industry.yorkshire.com/virtual-y21/programme