If you have tried to book a staycation in the county this summer you will know how difficult it is. Two things are very clear, accommodation is scarce and rental prices have increased significantly. The power is very much in the hands of the property owners and demand is outstripping supply.
If you look at the crowded streets of Whitby, then it obviously is a bumper year for tourism. Across the county, it seems that more people are flooding into the area.
My trip to Thornton-le-Dale last Saturday was marred by queues of traffic that I have never seen before. On Sandsend beach, social distancing went out of the window as the tide came in.
It is really great to see so many people coming to the most beautiful part of the country and we all should be thankful for the great boost to the economy, but will it last?
The obvious thing is that many of the people coming to Yorkshire are here only because they cannot go abroad owing to Covid.
The flood of visitors this year could easily turn into a drought next year and this is something that we in Yorkshire need to prepare for.
The cloud of the pandemic has brought a silver lining to the county as people escape lockdown for the coast and moors. It is an economic boost that has to be built on to secure the future of tourism in the county and keep employment and livelihoods going.
According to a report by the Centre for Retail Research, 60 per cent of people questioned intend to holiday abroad in 2022, and our tourism industry has to future-proof itself.
Staycations in 2019 brought £5.8bn into the economy. In 2020 that rose to £7.1bn with a prediction that the amount could rise to £13bn this year. Next year, things may be very different and we could see ourselves in the midst of a tourism crisis with thousands of vacant holiday properties and venues.
Something as important as this cannot be left to government and local councils to sort out as Welcome to Yorkshire obtains £600,000 from town halls to underwrite the costs of next year’s Tour de Yorkshire when the costs, and impact, of past races are still unproven. If it is so successful, where are the private sector sponsors?
This county has far more to offer than a bike race. A grassroots movement has to be encouraged to keep tourism booming and not allow the bubble to burst.
I believe there has to be an emphasis on what makes us special as a county. Our unique culture, food and geography have to play an important part in this. Creative initiatives have to be supported with artisan tourist-centred businesses given grant aid.
It is the different and the unusual that attracts tourism. Yorkshire cannot offer wall-to-wall sunshine with heat to match. To succeed in the future, we have to have attractions that are appealing, rain or shine, and are priced for a family to enjoy without feeling they are having their fingers burnt.
Ryedale Folk Museum, Sewerby Hall and Bondville Model Village are great examples of where a family can go for a reasonably priced, interesting and unique visit. However, we need more to satisfy the appetite of fickle tourists to stop them being lured back to France and Spain.
Planning permission and change of use has to be made easier for those who want to open tourist-centred businesses other than holiday homes. Owners of second homes could be locally taxed at a higher rate of community charge or even business rates to curb the inflation of property prices and help pay for new initiatives.
In Cornwall, the average house price has increased to eight times the average annual salary and is causing a housing crisis as so many of all holidays taken in the UK were in the Duchy.
In Yorkshire, we need affordable homes for those who work full-time here. Our tourist industry will go bust if it doesn’t have the workers to keep it going. Houses have to be for all year and not just for August.
To sustain tourism post-Covid, we have to have a secure workforce. In the South West, there have been reports of workers having to live in sheds and tents as they have been priced out of the housing rental market by second homers looking for a Cornish lifestyle that doesn’t really exist.
Yorkshire has to use the staycation boom to its advantage. However, the old adage of “if you build it, they will come” no longer works.
We have to realise that the mass of tourists jamming our roads are only here because they can’t go anywhere else.
It is vital that new tourism initiatives are quickly pushed through and the Government financially supports new businesses with rate and tax breaks.
GP Taylor is a writer and broadcaster. He lives in East Yorkshire.
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