New upbeat figures reveal visitor numbers to Harrogate rose by two million in 2023 as town's economy bounces back

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Harrogate business leaders say new figures show that fears the retail sector here is facing a ‘ghost town’ situation are simply wide of the mark with visitor numbers rising by two million in a single year.

After liaising with data firm HUQ, Harrogate Business Improvement District (BID) says that footfall in the town centre remains strong while the number of empty units on the town’s high street is almost half the national average.

Harrogate BID manager Matthew Chapman said: “Over recent months, we’ve heard grumbles that Harrogate is becoming a ghost town with too many empty units and not enough visitors from other areas.

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"As a team working on the ground, we know that, while Harrogate isn’t immune to national challenges, it is continuing to thrive.”

Footfall in Harrogate town centre remains strong while the number of empty units on the town’s high street is almost half the national average. (Picture Gerard Binks)Footfall in Harrogate town centre remains strong while the number of empty units on the town’s high street is almost half the national average. (Picture Gerard Binks)
Footfall in Harrogate town centre remains strong while the number of empty units on the town’s high street is almost half the national average. (Picture Gerard Binks)

Last year saw more than 21 million unique visitors pass through Harrogate, a rise of two million compared to 2022 and 4.5 million more than the pre-Covid days of 2019.

Using the most recent council data on vacant units in Harrogate, the town’s rate stands at 7.8% – 42 out of 538 units.

That’s almost half the national average of 14%.

Harrogate’s data is also lower than nearby Knaresborough, which has a vacancy rate of 8.2% and Ripon, where the rate is 9%.

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Harrogate BID manager Matthew Chapman said: "While Harrogate isn’t immune to national challenges, the figures show it is continuing to thrive.” (Picture contributed)Harrogate BID manager Matthew Chapman said: "While Harrogate isn’t immune to national challenges, the figures show it is continuing to thrive.” (Picture contributed)
Harrogate BID manager Matthew Chapman said: "While Harrogate isn’t immune to national challenges, the figures show it is continuing to thrive.” (Picture contributed)

Despite the positive note, the Harrogate business sector is taking nothing for granted.

Harrogate BID, which relies for funding on the support of local businesses, is stepping up its efforts to keep Harrogate’s retail and hospitality sectors buoyant.

Writing in his regular column for the Harrogate Advertiser, Mr Chapman said: “We will continue to work hard towards achieving our objectives during our second term as Harrogate BID – and we want to do as much as we can to support all types of businesses as we maintain our efforts to improve the town centre.”

Meanwhile, leading Harrogate hotelier Simon Cotton is calling for new measures to support businesses to ensure long-term prosperity for the town’s hospitality sector.

In particular, he says, cutting red tape and reviewing the current rules on outdoor seating and licensing arrangements for bars and cafe is crucial.