Gemma Rio

Gemma Rio is the Harrogate district’s new head of destination management


Harrogate Borough Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Gemma Rio as its new head of destination management.

Gemma will create a new destination management organisation (DMO) for the district.

The DMO will bring together the strengths of Visit Harrogate, Harrogate Convention Centre’s marketing team, and the district’ tourist information centres.

The mission is to ensure the best possible visitor experience and make the district of Harrogate a “must visit” destination for leisure and business tourists alike.

The role will involve working closely with the borough council, Think Harrogate, Harrogate BID, and other organisations such as Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association to further grow economic impact and support the district’s recovery plans following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gemma will take up her new post in early October and joins Harrogate Borough Council from the Tees Valley Combined Authority, where she led on visitor economic growth.

During her time in Tees Valley, Gemma established ‘Enjoy Tees Valley’, the area’s first destination marketing service in over seven years.

She successfully bid for a significant group game of the 2021 Rugby League World Cup and, most recently, developed a Covid-19 recovery programme for the Tees Valley visitor economy.

Before this, Gemma held positions as director of marketing, membership and business development for an Australian economic development and destination management body named Townsville Enterprise.

While overseas, Gemma also ran the Townsville North Queensland Convention Bureau and Event Bidding Fund, securing both business and leisure events to drive visitor expenditure into the destination.

Gemma Rio said:

The Harrogate district is home to some genuinely excellent visitor experiences and I’m delighted to have the opportunity to establish its new destination management organisation to ensure those experiences attract more and more high-spending visitors.

This is undoubtedly a challenging time for the visitor economy but there are already promising signs of recovery in the Harrogate district, with the Visit Harrogate website seeing record web traffic in recent months.

I’m looking forward to supporting the sector in navigating these uncertain times, maximising the opportunity in increased domestic travel, and preparing for what we hope will be a robust 2021 spring/summer season.


A spokesperson from Harrogate Hospitality and Tourism Association said:

Gemma’s appointment recognises the importance of a strong destination strategy for Harrogate district and can only be good news for the district’s hospitality sector, especially in the current economic climate.


Paula Lorimer, director of Harrogate Convention Centre, said:

Gemma will bring a wealth of industry knowledge and experience having held leadership posts in destination marketing in Townsville Australia and as tourism manager at Tees Valley Combined Authority.

I am sure the whole district will join me in welcoming Gemma and wish her every success here in Harrogate.

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