Plight of Yorkshire business tourism shows visitor economy is much more than beaches: The Yorkshire Post says

When the concept of Yorkshire tourism is discussed, thoughts naturally turn to the region’s stunning coastline, the beauty of its National Parks and the historical splendour of York.

Business conferences normally generate hundreds of millions of pounds each year for Yorkshire's economy.

But another vitally-important – but often-overlooked – part of the county’s visitor economy is business tourism, driven in large part by national and international organisations holding conferences in places like Leeds and Harrogate.

This industry – worth £560m to Leeds alone last year – has been dealt a hammer blow by the coronavirus pandemic which has not only resulted in months of cancellations but also raised major question marks about the long-term future of office working itself.

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While the Government has said that business conferences complying with social distancing measures should be able to resume from October 1, there is reluctance from many companies to book anything in for the remainder of this year.

Given factors such as ongoing restrictions on international travel, recent last-minute postponements to other lockdown easing measures such as the opening of bowling alleys and casinos and the fact that many staff are still working from home, such reticence to make arrangements for the autumn and winter is entirely understandable.

It is becoming clearer that despite the Government’s hopes for a swift V-shaped economy recovery after lockdown, some industries will take longer than others to get back off the ground.

Additionally, different parts of the same sectors will bounce back much more quickly than others – as is being seen with tourism in Yorkshire.

It all means that carefully-targeted and continuing Government support is vital, as is long-term planning for returning industries like business tourism – worth £32bn to the UK last year – back to their previous strength.

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James Mitchinson