Popular perceptions of the region may be entwined with visions of lush landscapes but the whole county has yet to fully exploit the opportunities this can generate through tourism, the report to North Yorkshire County Council suggests.
Work to address the value that the natural environment can bring to economic growth and healthier communities is being undertaken by the North Yorkshire and York Local Nature Partnership (LNP), one of 48 given LNP status in England by the Government in 2012 to improve the way local authorities work with the environment.
The LNP has strong links with the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership and the county council’s health and wellbeing board. It aims to conserve, enhance and connect the natural environment across North Yorkshire and the city of York for the benefit of wildlife, people and the economy.
In the report prepared for a North Yorkshire County Council scrutiny committee, Liz Small, the council’s heritage services manager, and Matt Millington, the LNP development officer, said: “Nature tourism is a sector that can develop to bring in tens of millions of pounds of income to the area.”
But they believe current attempts to derive maximum economic benefits from nature tourism fall short, adding: “The Yorkshire brand draws strongly on nature as a tourist draw but provides limited information on what to see and do.
“The Yorkshire Nature Triangle is a strong foundation for the area, but only covers East Yorkshire, and more could be done on the ground for businesses and wildlife in North Yorkshire.”
The Yorkshire Nature Triangle is an initiative led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to promote wildlife hotspots in eastern Yorkshire. It is one of many reasons why tourists should visit the county to enjoy nature, according to Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity.
Sir Gary said: “Yorkshire’s great outdoors has so much to offer everyone - beautiful beaches, wonderful walks, three gorgeous National Parks to explore in your hiking boots or on two wheels, rock-climbing, bird-watching on the fantastic coast, camping, star-gazing festivals, a calming boat trip along one of our canals, a dip in the North Sea, an adrenalin-fuelled 4x4 off-road driving experience or tree-top canopy rope adventure - the list is endless.”
However the report’s authors believe that more investment is needed to promote North Yorkshire’s natural assets.
“There are numerous wildlife hotspots that can be promoted with additional investment linking to lesser known sites and businesses in the wider landscapes to make the wider areas a destination and extend the tourist season,” the report states.
More can be done to benefit rural businesses, communities and the environment by promoting tourism in an holistic manner, said Dorothy Fairburn, regional director of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA).
She said: “Rural businesses, inclusive of farms, show a growing interest in diversifying their businesses, quite often involving the tourism sector, and the CLA is supportive of working with local authorities and agencies to make this happen for our members.”
But, she warned: “Many businesses are holding back on their investment decisions due to the uncertainty created by Brexit.”