Welcome to Yorkshire: Tributes paid to departing Chief Executive James Mason
The shock resignation of James Mason as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire has prompted an outpouring of tributes to his endeavours to turn around the tourism body.
Mr Mason took up the post in January last year following the resignation of Sir Gary Verity, the organisation’s first chief executive.
Mr Mason announced his own resignation yesterday and will leave the organisation on October 22.
Sir Gary resigned in March 2019 on health grounds amidst allegations about expenses spending and his behaviour towards staff.
Board member for Welcome to Yorkshire and , the chief caretaker of Halifax’s Piece Hall, Nicky Chance-Thompson, Tweeted : “James Mason has been a fantastic and inspirational CEO leading the organisation through some highly challenging times.
“I wish him all the best in his exciting new role (s) and will miss working with him.
“Never met anyone as passionate about our county.
Under his leadership, Welcome to Yorkshire launched a campaign to promote Yorkshire as the “walking capital of the world” and there had been hopes that a cultural festival intended to take place alongside the Tour de Yorkshire next year would still be able to go ahead despite the race’s cancellation.
Chair of Welcome to Yorkshire, Peter Box CBE said “We would like to thank James for the commitment and energy he has demonstrated during a particularly turbulent time for tourism and for the organisation.
"When James joined as chief executive almost two years ago there were many challenges to deal with.
"A positive plan was put in place to continue showcasing Yorkshire to the world and despite the COVID-19 pandemic adding a new and unexpected level of challenges for the tourism industry, James tackled all issues head-on and worked tirelessly.
"He embraced all aspects of the role passionately and with creativity. A board meeting will be arranged to discuss the next steps for Welcome to Yorkshire. We would like to wish James and his family well for the future.”
Mr Mason will stay in post until Friday October 22 giving him time between then and Christmas to expand a Dementia Cafe he helped launch in 2018 before starting his next role.
Mr Mason said: “I’m honoured to have held this position and to lead a team of talented hard-working people. I’d like to express my gratitude to them all along with the many wonderful people across Yorkshire I’ve met in this role. It has been a privilege to work with you all, to promote Yorkshire to the world and stand shoulder to shoulder with you through a pandemic.
"I only wish the organisation well going forward and most importantly the thousands of businesses that make Yorkshire so unique.
“Whilst working under difficult conditions at times, there is lots we can be proud of, such as the much-loved ‘Walkshire’ campaign, the launch of a personal membership and tree planting scheme, as well as the implementation of a Tourism Recovery Plan.
"The brief when I joined was to guide Welcome to Yorkshire towards steadier waters and drastically reduce costs.
"We achieved this despite all the restrictions we faced and never stopped innovating or striving for excellence. I’d like to thank everyone for their involvement in trying to bring the Tour de Yorkshire back especially our local authority partners with their continued commitment. These high-profile events will return to the region when the time is right.
“The decision to leave wasn’t an easy one as I have really enjoyed the role it but I’m excited about putting my energy into my new role.
"I will of course be committed to Welcome to Yorkshire and the staff until I leave before investing some time expanding ‘Bradford Memories’, a dementia group supporting individuals and their families living with the disease, as my mother does. Who knows, perhaps we can launch ‘Yorkshire Memories’. Watch this space…”
Mr Mason's tenure as chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire has been marked with both financial difficulties and the disappointment of the cancellation of the Tour de Yorkshire.
Welcome to Yorkshire took a £500,000 loan from North Yorkshire County Council in September 2019 after coming close to being unable to pay staff.
The organisation put out a further plea to local councils for £1.4m in emergency funding in June 2020 after the pandemic further hit its finances.
In January this year, one year into taking over as chief executive, Mr Mason admitted the organisation had been “fire-fighting” as it made a wave of redundancies to cut £1m from its wage bill.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the Tour de Yorkshire cycling race was being called off for the third year in a row following a failure to reach financial agreement on how much Yorkshire public sector bodies should pay to fund the event in 2022.