The Visit Harrogate column with Richard Spencer

Bettys tearoom has an international reputation.
Bettys tearoom has an international reputation.

What do you want for Christmas? For our retail and hospitality sector, all they want for Christmas is you – have you seen the very welcome national campaign? At Visit Harrogate we want to do more to support our Indies – and not just for Christmas.

It’s a choice we all have. Local businesses are the backbone of our economy, and our community. Research shows that £10 spent with a local independent shop means up to an additional £50 goes back into the local economy; it creates a circular ecology.

From a tourism point of view, as well as keeping a destination an attractive place to live and work, people, not algorithms, create the character and identity of our District.

One shining beacon of this is, of course, Bettys. Other special and local tearooms are available, but it has undoubtedly become part of the fabric of Harrogate, a tourism attraction in itself with an international reputation. Looking to 2019, the tearoom celebrates its 100th anniversary. It is part of a family-retail legacy that represents tradition and quality, from Jespers to Woods. We have a heritage of independent spirit, and it’s one we should celebrate and use in our promotional activities.

The success of the Harrogate BID is also welcomed as 2019 will see town centre businesses take control over the plans for the High Street – more events and more marketing are high on the list.

It all stands in good stead for being ready to ‘Welcome the World’. 2019 will see a year of events and installations to celebrate Harrogate being at the centre of the UCI World Road Championships in September.

Go to the Visit Harrogate website to keep abreast of announcements.

It isn’t of course just about retail, our accommodation sector is crucial as the world descends, with Harrogate filling up fast for the cycling event.

One of our leading hotels, Rudding Park has offered a luxurious New Year’s Eve competition package as a prize to Visit Harrogate. This ultimate New Year Escape includes Afternoon Tea in the Clocktower, a New Year’s Eve party with cocktails, street food buffet, DJ and a piper to herald in the New Year. Awake at leisure to a Yorkshire breakfast and a ‘Recovery Pack’ with access to the Indoor Swimming Pool, Juniper Log Sauna and Bucket Shower.

Make sure you go to the competitions page on visitharrogate.co.uk before the competition closes on Monday 17 December for your chance to start 2019 in style.

Alongside major award-winning hotels, we are home to gems such as The Chapel, a Grade II listed conversion, by the art-enthusiast and local creative champion and visionary, Mark Hinchcliffe. In recent months, The Chapel has won the Ch4 programme, Four in a Bed, been a location for a storyline on Emmerdale, and a backdrop for advertisements and photo shoots galore. Mark, deservedly, saw his Harrogate B&B recently voted the most stylish venue – in the world!

The awards, which recognise excellence in interior design are run by global textiles giant, Vision Support Services. They received entries from every continent, so it’s a remarkable achievement. If you’ve seen The Chapel, you’ll understand why it won!

Speaking of awards, we must congratulate Mr Pateley Bridge, Keith Tordoff, on his MBE. I believe we can all learn from Keith’s ideas, energy and passion for his local Pateley Bridge High Street.

If all that hasn’t given you a festive glow of pride in our town, a visit to RHS Harlow Carr Gardens for its ‘Glow’ Winter Illuminations is recommended. Enjoy an early evening stroll along an illuminated trail around the garden’s trees and garden highlights: the Queen Mother’s Lake, revamped Edwardian garden, Streamside, Doric columns and new for this year, the enchantingly-lit Alpine glasshouse.

Building on the success of our My Nidderdale photo competition in partnership with Nidderdale AONB, we’ll be launching a photography challenge for Harrogate in January. But for those who just want to share social media snaps of what you’re up to across the District, upload photos using #MyHarrogate on Instagram or Twitter to be featured on the Visit Harrogate website.

Let’s show off to the world our District in all its glory. Thanks for sharing!