In a groundbreaking move, various towns and cities in West Yorkshire have united to establish a strategic tourism partnership aimed at unleashing the full potential of the region’s visitor economy.

The successful joint bid involved councils from Leeds, Calderdale, Kirklees, Bradford, and Wakefield, along with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, coming together to form the Local Visitor Economy Partnership (LVEP).

Presently, the tourism activities for the region’s significant 65 million annual visitors are managed independently by each of the five districts in West Yorkshire.

Under the newly established LVEP program, powered by VisitEngland, these districts will collaborate closely, sharing valuable ideas and resources. The primary objective is to stimulate growth in the visitor economy, attracting more tourists and investments while also generating job opportunities throughout the region.

Furthermore, being part of the West Yorkshire LVEP enables access to expert guidance, dedicated toolkits, and training programs. The partnership will also receive support for crucial national funding applications.

To ensure effective coordination and cooperation, the West Yorkshire LVEP will regularly hold meetings with representatives from each district, working in close partnership with both public and private sector stakeholders. This collective effort promises to drive West Yorkshire’s tourism industry to new heights, benefiting the entire region.

They will be chaired by West Yorkshire Mayor Tracy Brabin, who said:  “I’m thrilled that the rich heritage of our districts has been recognised in this way.

“Through this new partnership, we can drive forward West Yorkshire’s tourism offer and give the sector the vital support it needs.

“Combining our strengths to build a stronger, brighter West Yorkshire, we’re ready to show the world why it’s the place to be.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education, said: “We are delighted to have secured LVEP status and excited that we will now be working more closely with our neighbours so that together, we can showcase the very best West Yorkshire has to offer.

“Our region is a completely unique, vibrant and beautiful place which deserves an international spotlight. By working more collaboratively and sharing ideas, we can support each other in highlighting what makes our districts so remarkable individually whilst also collectively showing just how special West Yorkshire is as a region.”

Councillor Michelle Collins, Wakefield Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and sport, said: “Our new tourism partnership is going to be right at the heart of work to attract visitors to our wonderful region. We’re excited that more and more people, both from this country and from abroad, are discovering all the diverse and special things which West Yorkshire has to offer.

“The visitor economy is central for our plans for Wakefield district to be a growing hub for sporting, cultural and leisure activities. Increasing visitor numbers is great news for our fantastic local businesses, and it helps provide great job opportunities for local people.”

Councillor Sarah Courtney, Calderdale Council’s cabinet member for towns, tourism and voluntary sector, said: “We’re thrilled to be part of this exciting new partnership. Calderdale has long seen the importance of its visitor economy and it has become increasingly important over the last few years in helping our economic recovery.

“Calderdale is now firmly on the map as a national and international visitor destination due to its distinctiveness, the impact of filming and because of the many great attractions, like Hebden Bridge, Eureka! and the Piece Hall. With our Year of Culture 2024 fast approaching, we are proud to be part of wonderful West Yorkshire and look forward to working with our partners to take the region to the next level.”

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s portfolio holder for healthy people and places, said: “Our region has so much to offer, from our stunning countryside to our cosmopolitan cities and fascinating heritage.

“So, working more collaboratively with our neighbouring districts can only maximise what we offer visitors, who are likely to cross over district boundaries. Being a Local Visitor Economy Partnership will enhance the visitor experience, as well as providing a welcome boost to all those businesses involved in tourism.”

Councillor Naheed Mather, Kirklees Council’s cabinet member for culture and tourism said: “This is great news for Kirklees and West Yorkshire. We know that tourism brings opportunities for investment and growth which in turn helps us to further enhance our places for visitors and local people alike.

“I believe that our shared cultural and natural treasures can provide a unique visitor experience, that can compete on both a national and international scale. I look forward to working with my counterparts in other local authorities and the combined authority to showcase the wide variety of attractions in Kirklees and across the region.”

The LVEP programme was launched last year after consultation following a government review of Destination Management Organisations across England.

An interim board has been appointed which includes key tourism partners across West Yorkshire who will help shape the future or tourism for the region.

The LVEP will also continue working with partners and organisations across the wider Yorkshire region to promote the Yorkshire brand.

VisitEngland Director Andrew Stokes said: “Local Visitor Economy Partnerships (LVEPs) are at the heart of transforming the visitor economy landscape in England and we are delighted to welcome West Yorkshire onto the programme.

“We look forward to continuing our close collaboration with West Yorkshire as the LVEP is established, providing ongoing support including a dedicated VisitEngland regional development lead.

“Having the right national and local infrastructure in place to grow our visitor economy, in an inclusive, accessible and sustainable way, will ensure England continues to be a compelling destination for both domestic and international visitors.”

The successful LVEP applications comes with the year-long Leeds2023 cultural celebration and Kirklees Year of Music in full swing, with the region building towards Bradford’s year in the spotlight as the UK’s City of Culture 2025.