Could tourism-reliant York and North Yorkshire towns become 'ghost towns' due to Covid?

York and tourist towns in North Yorkshire could be at risk of losing their high streets for good due to the Covid pandemic because of their reliance on tourism, shops and hospitality. 

According to Office of National Statistic, 11.7 per cent of all businesses are hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail, but in York it is nearly 17%.

However, the Labour Party's analysis of figures revealed York could suffer more than most. 

York's Retail Forum says the number of vacant shops in the city has risen to 60 from around a dozen two years ago.

However despite the gloom, the organisation's chair, Phil Pinder, is setting up a new business - a wizard themed golf attraction in the city centre.

He says times are tough and more help is needed from the Government, but rejects claims that York could become a ghost town.

Shops, bars, restaurants and holiday breaks have been particularly affected by numerous lockdowns over the past year.

Many high streets across the region have also been struggling. The last year has seen several household names already collapse due to decreasing footfall, with more and more people choosing to shop online.

23 Arcadia stores from Topshop to Dorothy Perkins will close. Credit: PA

Research found that across Yorkshire there's a higher than average number of empty shops - more than 4,100 units. Over the past ten years the number of people visiting high streets in the Calendar region has fallen by 25%, the second highest drop in the country.

Paul Crossman, a leading pub campaigner, says more businesses will go bust if help isn't extended.

The moratorium on commercial rents is due to end at the end of March.

Labour has called on the Government to extend the 100% business rates holiday for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses for at least another six months; continue the reduced rate of VAT for businesses in the hospitality, tourism and culture sectors; and to give businesses greater flexibility to manage debt including student loan style arrangements.

A government spokesperson said they have provided on-going support for high streets to ensure they are ''thriving.''

“We’ve extended our furlough scheme through to April as well as providing £4.6bn extra in grants earlier this year, so that people have certainty that help is in place. At the upcoming Budget we’ll outline the next stages of our Plan for Jobs to support businesses and families across the UK.''