Boom and bust: How pandemic has been a rollercoaster ride for region's tourism

Cleethorpes saw a huge decline in visitors during lockdown Credit: ITV Yorkshire

Zak Bradley operates the land train that takes tourists on a ride along Cleethorpes' historic sea front.

But as summer turned to autumn, the realisation dawned that he'd have to find other ways to make ends meet.

"My wife recently told me I'd be taking a second job over winter time," he says.

"That's what we have to do to survive, so that's what we'll do."

Zak Bradley Credit: ITV Yorkshire

The land train, like so many attractions in the tourist trade, ground to a halt as the country went into lockdown – wiping out all income during what would normally be some of the busiest months of the year.

Zak is trying to remain positive.

"We don't think about that time and all the business we've lost," he says. "We just have to focus on the future."

But the facts speak for themselves.

In March – the month that the Prime Minister announced the lockdown – footfall in Cleethorpes fell by a third compared with last year.

By April, it had plummeted to a quarter of normal levels.

Cleethorpes is no stranger to economic challenges. In the 1970s and 80s the fishing industry upon which its fortunes were built was seriously damaged by the infamous Cod Wars and the subsequent imposition of quotas.

But the town's MP, Martin Vickers, says the hit brought by the pandemic is even worse.

"There hasn't been a challenge as big as this since the end of the war," he says.

"It worries me that we're now going into winter – are some of [our businesses] going to survive?"

Bar owner Emma Anderson says the increase in custom after lockdown measures were eased didn't compensate for earlier losses Credit: ITV Yorkshire

Bar owner Emma Anderson shares his concerns.

She says there was an increase in custom following the easing of lockdown restrictions – but not the numbers necessary to recover what had been lost.

"It's going to be a little bit more difficult this winter to try and keep afloat, but I think we'll just manage to do it... hopefully."

  • Report by Michael Billington

Up the coast in Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire, the impact of social distancing is evident even in the sand on the beach, where there are lines to indicate two-metre spacing outside the ice cream van.

Neil Purves, the man in the van, says: "The cash we give out is sterilised, as are the card machines. Most of the businesses are doing as much as they can."

During lockdown, barely a soul climbed the steps up from the beach, which are overlooked by Graham Kemp's house.

But after the rules relaxed, the numbers rose steeply.

The steps to the beach outside Graham Kemp's house were packed after lockdown measures relaxed Credit: ITV Yorkshire

"It's been quite an eye opener," Graham says. "We've gone from nothing to 4,200 people coming down these steps. That was the peak on bank holiday.

"Normally it's 2,000 coming down those steps and we can cope with that.

"There's been queues at the tea hut – unprecedented – since lockdown lifted. A lot of people going to Spain have come here instead. That could help us next year."

At a time when businesses' financial health had to be balanced against the health of the country at large, the crowds brought their own challenges.

Jackie Howard's sweet shop recovered some business at the end of the summer Credit: ITV Yorkshire

But for people like sweet shop owner Jackie Howard, the influx of tourists proved a lifeline.

"I just hope that it carries on for a bit," she says. "It's hard for the locals because they probably don't want the tourists but as a business owner I do want them.

"I've just been grateful for people to come out in the summer and I've got some money back and I've got to be grateful for that."

  • Report by Katie Oscroft