Is Whitby really a rip-off? We investigate

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The letter-writer slamming Whitby's prices didn't hold back.

Ian Dixon, a Whitby resident, dubbed the Yorkshire town 'rip-off Whitby' in a missive criticising petrol station and pub owners for selling disproportionately expensive fuel, food and drink.

The famous 199 steps leading to Whitby Abbey

The famous 199 steps leading to Whitby Abbey

His letter to the Yorkshire Post took aim at the businesses he believes are deliberately over-charging both tourists and locals alike.

So, is Whitby really a rip-off? We spoke to those who live and work in the popular seaside destination to find out.

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The resident

Quaint streets in Whitby and the Captain Cook Museum

Quaint streets in Whitby and the Captain Cook Museum

Jon Stokoe has lived in Whitby since childhood, and has witnessed its rise from seasonal destination to year-round tourist honeypot.

He's noticed prices spiral - but also appreciates that the tourism industry is now the predominant source of income and employment for the local population.

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"Whitby is so cosmopolitan now, it's had a real resurgence. It's no surprise that it's become more expensive, and that can be frustrating for locals. It's one of the drawbacks of living here.

Whitby's harbourside

Whitby's harbourside

"In some of the tourist traps, you can pay London prices for a drink. But there are plenty of other nice places that don't charge that much. It's all about supply and demand.

"I've noticed that the prices of accommodation have changed a lot. It used to be that the season ran from April to September and it was quiet for the rest of the time. Now it's a year-round destination, with big events, like the Goth Weekends, all through the year. Hotels and B&Bs do jack up their prices at those times.

"But it's their livelihood and they employ local people. If nobody came here, prices would come down. Consumers can make choices."

Jon does take issue with the price of fuel, which he says is considerably more expensive in Whitby than it is even in central London. The town is relatively isolated from the motorway network and most visitors arrive by car.

St Mary's Church beside Whitby Abbey

St Mary's Church beside Whitby Abbey

"The fuel prices are a disgrace - the petrol stations definitely take advantage of motorists. There is something wrong there and it is my biggest bugbear about living here. I often fill up in Scarborough or Middlesbrough, and I've seen fuel seven or eight pence cheaper in London.

"People have no choice in the matter and it's unfair on locals, who are a captive audience.

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"I've also noticed parking is a lot cheaper in other popular tourist areas, like Skipton and the Lake District, than it is in Whitby. It's too easy for the council to keep putting the prices up."

Jon also believes Whitby's lesser-known areas are suffering due to the draw of the main tourist hotspots.

"Whitby is the busiest it's ever been. It's still such a nice place, and I don't see how we can change anything now - tourism is our main industry. The town centre can get a bit frightening in summer - often you can't move.

Whitby's old streets

Whitby's old streets

"Other little streets with nice shops are like a ghost town because people make a beeline for the Swing Bridge and the harbour. There's lots more to the town and the council should signpost visitors to other places."

The business owner

Sue Duck has run businesses in Whitby for years. She previously owned a shop on Church Street, and for the past two years has been the proprietor of French bistro Mademoiselles. She also lets rooms above the restaurant out as holiday accommodation.

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She opened the bistro on Skinner Street, which was then an up-and-coming area of the town considered to be off the main tourist trail.

"It's a tricky one - we don't change our prices during the year and don't inflate them in summer. We have a good following among locals, so I feel that our prices are right. There are a lot of factors that can affect pricing, such as higher business rates and rents in different parts of town.

"We have been lucky, as when we moved to Skinner Street there were incentives on offer for businesses to come here. It's a bit up-and-coming, as there are always visitors who don't want a five-minute walk to get somewhere. When I had a shop on Church Street, the rents were much higher, so that is bound to have an impact."

Mademoiselles is now listed in the Good Food Guide, but Sue admits it's still hard to make a living in the hospitality trade.

"It's very hard to make any money - it's one of the hardest industries. But the locals have supported us from day one, and trade is probably a 50-50 split between residents and tourists now.

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"Tourists will come because they've seen our good TripAdvisor reviews, they are a bit more savvy these days and will research places to eat before they book."

Her French-themed boutique holiday let has also been a success.

"Next month we are creating another room due to popular demand. The goths love our rooms! The new one is going to be opulent and dark, so it has that high-end, luxury appeal.

"Whitby has changed massively since I've been in business - it is extremely busy now. I think the town is just more 'out there' - there has been lots of good marketing and coverage in the national press. People love the vibe here and there's something for everybody, from fish and chips wrapped in paper to fine dining.

"Parking is a nightmare, and it's something our guests often ask about, but Whitby was not built for cars, especially the east side of town."