Two-speed recovery for Yorkshire tourism as visitors favour coast over cities

Visitor numbers to Yorkshire are rising as lockdown eases – but coastal areas tend to be faring better than cities and towns. Chris Burn reports.

Children enjoing the donkey rides at South Bay Beach, Scarborough. Picture by Simon Hulme

Tourism businesses across the region are reporting mixed fortunes after reopening following the coronavirus lockdown, Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive has revealed.

James Mason said regional differences were emerging after many of the county’s tourism and hospitality businesses opened their doors once again on July 4 in line with government guidance – with those based in coastal areas among the early winners as Brits flocked to the sea-side.

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But he said that city breaks have proved to be a “difficult sell” so far despite the best efforts of local councils and tourism chiefs.

With theatres closed, cities like Sheffield are seeing a decline in visitors.

Mr Mason said it was fair to describe the recovery of Yorkshire’s tourism industry to date as a “mixed picture”.

“It is real light and shade,” he said. “There are some really positive stories of businesses that have never been busier – they tend to be in the coastal areas.

“Other businesses in places such as the Yorkshire Wolds are struggling to pick up bookings for whatever reason.

“I was in Harrogate a couple of weeks ago and people were saying it was busier than it was but time will tell if we are actually making any money.

“Other businesses in the supply chain – food manufacturers and beer suppliers – are doing a roaring trade. Some have gone from being wholesalers to online retailers.”

Mr Mason said there were some signs of optimism, with first-time visitors to WtY’s Yorkshire.com website up by more than 90 per cent in May and June.

He added the region’s tourism industry could also be assisted by increasing reluctance by people to go on foreign holidays this year in light of the new restrictions imposed on travel to Spain in recent weeks.

“A lot of people who have had holidays cancelled are looking at Yorkshire. What is particularly exciting is there are new markets of people who haven’t even thought about Yorkshire before.”

He said cities like Leeds, Sheffield, York and Hull have launched their own marketing campaigns to get people living in their local areas to rediscover their cities.

“All these cities are architectural wonders in their own right and now is probably the time to go back because they are not as busy as they were before,” he said. “There are some great offers to be had. I would really encourage people to visit the local authority websites and see what is going on.”

Sheffield Council, which launched a ‘Make Yourself at Home’ campaign at the end of June to encourage local people back out into the city, said its approach is being driven by weekly Visit Britain research suggesting people are currently reluctant to book city breaks – but this may soon start to change.

A spokesperson said: “Consumer sentiment currently suggests that people will willingly stay in their locality; that as they start to feel more comfortable they’ll extend their visiting to regional destinations and that as autumn approaches, they’ll start to feel more confident in travelling for short breaks.

“We’re already seeing movement to holiday destinations (coastal resorts in particular) and again the sentiment tracker identifies that outdoors destinations (coast, countryside, open spaces) are front of mind whilst urban and city breaks are least likely to be chosen.”

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