Tourists urged to visit York to save thousands of jobs

York businesses are urging tourists to come back
York businesses are urging tourists to come back Credit: PA

Tourism businesses in York are urging visitors to return to the city amid warnings of thousands of job losses. 

It's six months since the UK's first cases of coronavirus were confirmed as two people at a hotel in the city.

A report by the York and North Yorkshire Enterprise Partnership warns that the tourism industry will be the worst affected as the economy tries to recover after lockdown and it could result in over 20,000 job losses.

Some businesses who rely on visitors have told ITV Calendar that trade is down by between 50 and 75 per cent since lockdown.

At least 17 city centre businesses have closed in York in the wake of the pandemic and many others are clinging on, hoping for an upturn in tourism.

Busier times - York tourists spend around £560m a year in the city Credit: PA

York attracts seven million visitors a year, spending around £560 million.

This includes 300,000 overseas tourists, a number which has virtually disappeared because of quarantine restrictions. But even British visitor numbers have slumped.

Jade Ewan works at the Woody's Ice Cream outlet. She says takings are down to only 25% of what they normally would be.

Grays Court Hotel, which is shortlisted for a national tourism award, re-opened a garden bar on July 4, and then reopened bedrooms to guests on July 17.

Owner Helen Heraty is encouraged by bookings starting to rise but says 30% of her income was from overseas customers, and she accepts that has gone.

It was January 31st when it was confirmed that the first people in the UK had tested positive for coronavirus - and that was two visitors at the StayCity Hotel in York.

After that, cases were identified all across the country, with 300,000 cases now confirmed, with over 45,000 Covid-19 related deaths.

The country went into lockdown on March 23. And it was not until the start of July that the Government eased restrictions to allow pubs and restaurants to re-open and tourists to have overnight stays.

Over £30,000 has been spent to promote the city with the Let’s Be York campaign, introducing a one-way system for the narrow streets and on new signage.

A £30,000 campaign is trying to direct tourists to York Credit: PA

And businesses are taking measures to make tourists feel safe.

City Cruises York who have recently reopened, are asking customers to wear a face mask on their sightseeing boat and are only operating at 50% capacity for social distancing. 

Visitors were upbeat about York's prospects, saying the city is as stunning as ever.

One overseas tourist who did make it to the city is Kate, a student from Taiwan. She said its a great time to visit York because the streets are so empty at the moment, there are no queues to the attractions and social distancing is not a problem.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called for more support for staff working in tourism, claiming they are falling through the cracks.

He said businesses and communities have told him they are struggling due to the shorter season and social distancing.

Labour says official statistics show that in areas with a fifth or more workers employed in tourism, unemployment rose by 174% since February, compared with the UK average of 110%.

He told ITV News: "I say to the Government - put some support into these important sectors. Allow them to survive into the autumn and into the next year because we can't let good businesses go under."

However, the Government hit back at Sir Keir's comments, saying they had provided an unprecedented package of support for jobs and businesses.

Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey said: "We have been honest with the British public that while we cannot save every job, we have introduced an unprecedented package of support for jobs and businesses, which have particularly helped the hospitality and tourism sectors.

"Our Plan for Jobs will support Britain getting back into work, something we hope the Labour Party will get behind."