Staycations: Renewed hope for Harrogate tourism providers as people look for holidays at ‘home’

The owner of a Knaresborough bed and breakfast which dates back to the 17th century is pinning her hopes on a busy tourism season following a tough year for the district’s hospitality industry.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 2:12 pm
Updated Friday, 5th March 2021, 2:24 pm

Karen Powell, who has owned Kirkgate House since 2012, said it was devastating when her full diary of bookings started to dwindle away at the beginning of the pandemic 12 months ago.

She said: “It was a bit like the TV show Take me Out when all the lights went out. I was devastated.

Hopes are high that places like Knaresborough will attract tourists for staycations once lockdown laws are eased.

“We just had to keep hoping things would get better. “We did manage to open for a little bit last summer, but it had to be reduced numbers to make sure we complied with social distancing.

“We are keeping our fingers crossed that this year it all goes according to plan.”

Mrs Powell said she had received a lot of bookings for the summer following Boris Johnson’s announcement last week regarding the roadmap to recovery.

In preparation for reopening, work is currently underway on building a second self-catering unit at the bed and breakfast, which boasts views of the medieval street of Kirkgate and Knaresborough Castle.

And Mrs Powell is confident more people will choose a ‘staycation’ holiday in the UK this year.

She said: “I think for a lot of people, they won’t want to risk booking holidays abroad. I know our vaccination programme is going really well, but you don’t really know what other countries are going to start stipulating. A lot of people will think it’s a better option to have a staycation so they can still have a bit of a break.

“Obviously we would encourage that because for us this is our livelihood so it would be nice to get the ball rolling again.”

Mrs Powell, a former nurse at Harrogate Hospital, said that as her business was also her and her husband’s home, she had not been able to access all of the Government support grants.

However, she said her husband has been able to continue working and the couple have managed to keep going “with a lot of tightening of belts”.

Bosses at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal say they are looking forward to the World Heritage Site playing a part in drawing visitors back to the area as the industry recovers from the effects of the pandemic.

The grounds of the ancient ruins, near Ripon, which is run by the National Trust, have remained open for the local community to take their daily exercise and access much-needed outdoor space.

However, the team at Fountains is excited to reveal some new projects when lockdown restrictions start to ease, with plans in place to open outside seating at the cafe, which is currently offering a takeaway service, from April 12 and a sit-in service available from May 17. The shop will also reopen on April 12.

Justin Scully, general manager at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, said: “The Harrogate district has such a vibrant tourism offer and we’re looking forward to the part Fountains will play in drawing visitors back to the area.

“We’re working hard behind the scenes on some exciting projects as well as continuing vital conservation work at this special place. As always, the safety of our staff, volunteers, visitors and local communities remains our priority.

“We are very grateful to our members and supporters throughout these changing times, and for their continued loyal support. The booking system we have for visiting remains in place to ensure social distancing and we urge people to book ahead and visit www.fountainsabbey.org.uk for updated information.”