Why Ilkley is expecting to become a staycation hotspot as lockdown restrictions limit foreign holidays

Businesses in Ilkley are gearing up for the spa town to become a staycation hotspot this summer with holidaymakers opting for domestic breaks instead of trips abroad.

Felicity Gains, manager of the Ilkley's Business Improvement District (BID), said locals were expecting a repeat of last summer as lockdown restrictions are eased nationwide.

She said that after the April 12 reopening of outdoor hospitality there was huge demands for seats as the community rallied around local businesses.

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Businesses in Ilkley are gearing up for the spa town to become a staycation hotspot this summer with holidaymakers opting for domestic breaks instead of trips abroad. Pic: Jonathan Gawthorpe

And with indoor hospitality reopening today she said businesses were "looking forward to welcoming people back". The Ilkley BID has been running a campaign to promote the town as a holiday destination because of the opportunities for shopping, leisure and walks with the countryside on its doorstep.

Ms Gains said: "So in terms of staycation potential we're really high up there for people coming in and visiting that previously would have gone abroad.

"And I think it's been great to see people coming from further afield to do that, we want to make sure that it's within all the COVID restrictions and you don't want to just open the doors completely, because we've got to get out of this for the final time, hopefully.

"But it was fantastic to see people really coming from far afield and enjoying everything that's so beautiful about Ilkley, I think that it really gives us so much potential to bounce back."

Yorkshire business leaders have urged the Government to produce a plan to avoid further lockdowns as several major sectors of the region's economy prepare to re-open on May 17 after months of lockdown restrictions.

Senior figures have described a mood of optimism among the region's firms as indoor hospitality prepares to open along with the accommodation sector and indoor entertainment such as cinemas and museums.

Social distancing measures will also be eased from May 17 as people in England will be able to meet outdoors in groups of up to 30, and indoors in groups of six, or two households.

The easing of restrictions is set to provide more good news for towns and cities in Yorkshire, which saw a return of visitors last month. But footfall in Yorkshire and the North was still 26 per cent down on the same month in 2019.

Matt Jackson, President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, said his organisation's latest local business survey showed that economic output and performance in Sheffield was on the increase and business confidence was growing again.

But he said: "Whilst we know some businesses have flourished during the pandemic, we know that others have faced challenging times. As a result, we have work to do to return our economic output to pre-pandemic levels but overall, indicators suggest we have an economy that has an appetite to grow."

Mr Jackson said he expected further improvements in the city because of the "clear link between the easing of coronavirus restrictions and business performance". But he warned that more clarity was needed for the medium term and after June 21, when the Government hopes to end all lockdown rules.

He said: "The Government roadmap is helping by providing direction and clarity for our business communities to work towards. As we focus on life after 21st June, we need a plan from Government to avoid further lockdowns. Questions relating to potential business restrictions in the medium and long-term remain unanswered.

"The Government must step up and provide a strategic economic plan to guide our recovery. To retain business confidence, we need clarity. Sheffield Chamber is proactively working with the British Chambers of Commerce as we lobby the Government to create the environment that will allow our businesses to recover and thrive.”

Helen Simpson OBE, Chair of the York & North Yorkshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said there was a "good deal of optimism from the business community as we continue along the government’s roadmap out of lockdown".

But she said: "Underneath the optimism, we can all anticipate the reality of the hard work involved and need to take a longer term-view to recovery. The events industry for example, continues to have significant restrictions along with public hesitancy for larger events throughout the rest of this year.

"Many businesses are grappling with how they budget for the financing they have taken on to get through the storm of the last year.

“Many of us have been helping recovery by supporting local businesses and our high streets wherever we can. With our partners, at the LEP we are also working together to build hope for the future, based on the reality of the unique capabilities and opportunities of our region, attracting investment and empowering York and North Yorkshire’s pivotal role in the UK’s green revolution.”