Yorkshire delight at record number of tourists

YORKSHIRE'S battered economy is getting a shot in the arm from tourism with visitor numbers set to reach a record high.

With hard-pressed families choosing short-term domestic breaks over foreign package deals, the region's mix of picturesque villages, historic towns, large open spaces and coastal resorts has seen a massive increase in holidaymakers.

Latest figures show a nine per cent rise in visits to attractions this summer, while self-catering occupancy levels across the Dales, Moors and Pennines averaged 78 per cent – a six per cent increase on 2009.

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Outdoor centres performed particularly well, with visits to country parks, gardens and farm and wildlife attractions up more than 15 per cent. Hotels, guesthouses and B&Bs in York, Harrogate and Whitby were more than 70 per cent full, with a similar figure in self-catering accommodation in Scarborough.

The figures have delighted tourism chiefs in an industry that is worth about 6.5bn a year to the region's economy.

Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity said: "Despite the tough economic climate people continue to choose Yorkshire as their holiday destination of choice. Occupancy levels are up on last year – which was a record year – and visitor spend remains strong.

"Yorkshire is a world-class holiday destination. Those of us who live here already know that, but for the last 16 months we have very deliberately set about raising the profile of Yorkshire across the UK and internationally – these figures show the work we are doing is having an impact."

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Large annual increases have also been recorded at attractions in York, with visitor numbers up by 22 per cent at York Dungeon, by 18 per cent at Clifford's Tower, and by eight per cent at York Castle Museum over the first seven months of this year.

Room occupancy rates in the city rose by three per cent to 77 per cent from January to July.

Visit York chief executive Gillian Cruddas said: "After a difficult start to the year because of the snow and ice we're really delighted York's tourism economy is flourishing."

Seaside destinations have proved popular. President of Bridlington Hotel and Guest House Association Pete Davison said: "People used to book well in advance and this time they have waited until the last minute. But we've had a busier year than last year and we're quite happy."

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Yorkshire coast tourism spokesman David Jeffels, a former chairman of the British Resorts' Association, added: "Overall it's fair to say Scarborough, Whitby and Filey have had a pretty good season, helped of course by the good weather.

"One of the encouraging signs has been the increasing number of people from abroad, motorists, and particularly the Dutch, which we are keen to encourage."

But chief executive of Hull aquarium The Deep Colin Brown said: "Overall we are slightly down on last year. We had a heatwave in May and June and the World Cup but since then the summer has been quite good for us."

Communications officer at the North York Moors National Park Rachel McIntosh said: "Although we have not quite reached the record numbers of last year, 2010 is still looking like a good year in terms of the numbers of visitors... with a lot of visitors both from the UK and overseas."