Harrogate looking to cash in on rush for ‘staycations’ as soon as lockdown eases
The unveiling of a roadmap out of lockdown has sparked an “incredible sense of optimism” in Yorkshire’s multi-billion pound tourism industry amid a huge spike in the number of bookings for domestic holidays.
Hotels, self-catering cottages and B&Bs around the region have been “frantically busy” with bookings in the first 48 hours since Boris Johnson revealed his four-stage plan for ending Covid restrictions.
The Prime Minister confirmed that spring and summer in England will usher in changes to make lives “incomparably better” as he set out a plan to fully ease the lockdown by June 21.
According to the PM’s roadmap, self-contained holiday accommodation, such as self-catering lets and camp sites could reopen form April 12 as well as outdoor settings like alcohol takeaways, beer gardens, zoos and theme parks. And from May 17 two households may be able to mix indoors, with indoor hospitality and hotels reopening.
Harrogate tourism bosses have been working busily behind the scenes to ensure the district is ready to welcome tourists again when allowed.
Crucial to the local economy, it is hoped that Harrogate, Knaresborough, Ripon and Nidderdale can all work together in attracting and keeping visitors in the region.
Welcome to Yorkshire Chief Executive James Mason said the release of specific dates for tourism businesses to reopen would “be a real lifeline for many parts of the tourism sector and allows for positive planning”.
“The roadmap out of lockdown means the thirst for staycations will be welcomed to kick-start the tourism and hospitality industry once more and encourage visits to attractions and locations, providing what will be a much-needed financial boost to this struggling sector,” he said.
Susan Briggs, director of The Tourism Network which offers marketing advice to businesses, said she had heard from hundreds of businesses who spoke about feeling “very upbeat about UK tourism and Yorkshire in particular”.
She said: “What’s interesting is until now, self-catering businesses were getting the bookings, whereas people were being a little bit more reticent about booking B&Bs and hotels. But the B&Bs and the hotels and the pubs with rooms are all starting to see bookings.
“One said, ‘literally Boris sat down and the phone rang’. I think the point is that there is this huge pent up demand to get away and people feel more secure going to familiar places in Britain. And we’ve just got such a range of things now.”
The majority of Yorkshire tourism businesses have secured accreditation from two industry standard schemes, We’re Good to Go and Safe, Clean and Legal, to show they have put measures in place to become Covid-secure.
But with many in the hospitality sector unlikely to see any real income until April or May, they are waiting anxiously for news of what further support can be offered by Chancellor Rishi Sunak in next week’s Budget.
District ready for recovery...
The new tourism boss at Harrogate Borough Council has said she is “confident” that hospitality businesses will be among those benefiting the most from the vaccine-triggered rebound this summer.
Gemma Rio, who was appointed as head of destination management in October, said the sector made a strong recovery following the spring lockdown and that she believes this will happen again.
These include digital marketing drives and a revamped Visit Harrogate website which will aim to bring visitors back to the borough as soon as travel and overnight stays are allowed.
Mrs Rio said: “It has been an incredibly tough year already but our plans will be ready as soon as the opportunity arrives. Having spoken to businesses in Harrogate, a lot of them had a very healthy summer last year. This is because the district already has such a great reputation.”