A concerted effort to attract a wave of visitors to some of the country’s leading tourism destinations will be conducted to capitalise on a surge in domestic vacations, the leader has pledged.
Last year witnessed a boom in so-called staycations amid the uncertainty of overseas travel due to restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic.
Holidaymakers face a critical time in the run-up to the main summer tourism season which begins at the end of this month (July) with the start of the school holidays amid the cost of living crisis which has dramatically impacted on disposable incomes.
The allure of overseas travel has also been called into question amid the chaotic scenes at the nation’s airports due to staffing shortages with thousands of flights being cancelled at short notice.
The county council’s leader, Cllr Carl Les, has highlighted the huge range of destinations that are on offer in North Yorkshire, ranging from remote rural getaways to some of the country’s most picturesque seaside resorts.
However, Cllr Les stressed that this summer represented a prime opportunity for the domestic market to ensure long-term loyalty is built among holidaymakers.
He said: “We have a wealth of tourism destinations in North Yorkshire that is hard to surpass anywhere else in the country, and for that we should be truly grateful.
“We have two National Parks covering the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors as well as some of the country’s most treasured seaside towns including Scarborough, Whitby and Filey, and this summer is an opportunity to ensure that we can bring in holidaymakers who can experience the wonderful places which North Yorkshire has to offer.
“However, we have to be mindful that finances are a concern for so many people, and especially if we want holidaymakers to consider returning to North Yorkshire again in the future.
“To ensure that a long-term and sustainable vision for tourism is achievable not just for North Yorkshire but the whole region, then value for money and the best experience possible must be at the forefront of everyone’s minds.”
Latest data from Visit England has shown that a third of people questioned in a survey last month anticipate they will take more overnight trips in the UK during the next 12 months compared to the previous year.
However, with concerns over the Covid-19 pandemic receding, the research also revealed that 23 per cent of those questioned plan to take more overnight trips abroad in the next 12 months compared to the previous year.
Tourism marketing for the region is itself at a cross-roads after Welcome to Yorkshire was placed into administration in March when council leaders decided to stop funding the organisation.
Entrepreneur Robin Scott has bought the Welcome to Yorkshire brand, although it is thought that his marketing efforts for the region will be largely focused around the Yorkshire.com website.
Cllr Les, who was previously a board member for the original version of Welcome to Yorkshire, said council leaders had held positive discussions with Mr Scott about his plans.
Council leaders are also continuing to investigate the potential for establishing a new tourism body for the region, which was a concept that was originally mooted after Welcome to Yorkshire was placed into administration.
A decision on creating a new destination management organisation for Yorkshire is expected to be made by council leaders later this year, potentially in the autumn.
Susan Briggs, the director of the Yorkshire-based Tourism Network, works with more than a thousand businesses across North Yorkshire and is helping them to attract visitors back after the Covid-19 pandemic.
She said: “The tourism market has obviously had a tough time throughout the pandemic, with the repeated lockdowns meaning that many businesses simply had to close for months on end.
“But the restrictions for overseas travel last summer did have the benefit of far more people looking to holiday within the UK. Once they’d seen what we have to offer, many are planning to return.
“Fuel price increases mean that many visitors are taking a fresh look at the destinations on their doorstep. We are seeing alot of people from within Yorkshire booking places to stay within the region. North Yorkshire is the golden destination as there is so much on offer from rural getaways to city breaks and holidays on the coast.
“We’re fortunate to have many loyal visitors. I’m working with businesses to help them capitalise on North Yorkshire’s sense of place – the special qualities of places like the North York Moors National Park that make it so distinctive and attractive. Our aim is to also make sure that local communities and businesses benefit directly from the visitor economy, attracting visitors who want to buy local products and enjoy activities without travelling too far.”
Mrs Briggs also highlighted the fact that many attractions and accommodation providers in North Yorkshire are smaller, independent enterprises and are not part of major national chains, meaning they have greater autonomy over how much they charge visitors.
She added: “A lot of businesses in the tourism sector have tried hard to keep their price rises to a minimum, even with operating costs increasing.
“This can only be a good thing amid the cost of living crisis. Our businesses really value the loyalty of regular visitors.
“Hopefully visitors to North Yorkshire will see just what is on offer and think about returning again year after year, as this will build momentum for what is such an important industry for the region’s economy.”
Tourism in the Yorkshire region is worth £9bn a year, and 224,000 workers are employed in the sector.
Tourism businesses look to capitalise in the growth of staycations
Tucked away deep in the North York Moors National Park, Tylas Farm has held a special place in the heart of Katy Doman for almost three decades.
As a nine-year-old, she moved to the farm with her family, enjoying an idyllic lifestyle in the scenic rural location to the north of Helmsley.
And Mrs Doman has embarked on one of the latest tourism ventures in North Yorkshire on the farm, where her parents, Jane and Ivan Holmes, still live while overseeing a herd of beef cattle.
Mrs Doman, 38, and her 52-year-old husband, Skot, who she married in October 2016, spent the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic creating a luxury glamping enterprise on the farm.
The venture, called The Lazy T, launched in June last year with a new cabin and a five-metre dome tent available to rent alongside an existing cottage after planning permission was secured from the North York Moors National Park Authority. Prices to stay range from £98 to £195 per night depending on the accommodation and the time of the week.
The couple, who have a four-year-old daughter, Ava, are set to launch the next phase of the business with the introduction of a second tent within the next fortnight.
They are hopeful that the initial success of the enterprise, which saw the accommodation fully booked throughout last summer as Covid-19 restrictions hampered overseas travel and saw a boom in staycations across the country, will be repeated throughout the main tourism season this year.
Mrs Doman met her husband while working in the fashion industry in London before heading off travelling around Europe and returning to North Yorkshire five years ago after training as a chef.
She said: “While coronavirus has been such a tough time for people, it gave us the chance to realise the ambition of creating the new business that we had been planning for years.
“We were in many ways lucky to launch last summer when so many people were looking to book a holiday in the UK because they couldn’t travel overseas.
“As people are faced with tighter finances during the cost of living crisis, we really hope that they will continue to holiday close to home - having a couple of days in our wild retreat without the stresses of the airport can give people the respite they need without the hassle or expense of international travel.
“I think last summer gave people the opportunity to see the incredible landscapes and wonderful holidays you can have within the same country, and often just an hour from their door.
“It has been such a lovely opportunity to show people what a wonderful part of the country we live in, as they come here to get away from the stresses of modern life. The Lazy T really is a special place, and you can see the change in people after they have only been here a day or so – their mood is completely different, and they are so more relaxed.”
The couple have already noticed a changing trend in the bookings they are receiving this summer, with more visitors coming from the North of England and especially Yorkshire, attributed in part to people’s desire not to travel as far due to the soaring cost of fuel.
Mr Doman said: “We have seen a definite shift in the places where bookings are coming from, including places such as Leeds, York, Hull and Newcastle.
“A lot of people are struggling with the cost of living, and they do not want to have lavish holidays abroad, so are increasingly looking to places like ourselves.
“That is obviously really good news for the tourism industry here in the UK, and we are hopeful that this will be a trend going forward, as people also look to protecting the environment by not travelling massive distances around the world for a holiday.”
Among the most popular destinations in North Yorkshire is the historic fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, its maze of tiny streets attracting visitors from across the country.
The village emerged as a centre for smuggling that was rife along the Yorkshire coast during the 18th century, and there is reputedly a network of subterranean tunnels linking houses that were used to ferry illicit goods between the properties.
However, tourism now ranks as the main industry in the coastal destination, with a plethora of holiday lets and shops appealing to the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on Robin Hood’s Bay every year.
Sam Asher and his business partner, Sian Jones, established a holiday cottage business in the village in April 2017, managing and renting out initially just one property.
Their portfolio now includes 22 cottages, the majority located in the original fishing village that is down the famously steep road that weaves from the cliff-top.
Their business, Baytown Holiday Cottages, witnessed a record year during 2021, despite the lockdown throughout the first third of the year affecting the tourism industry.
They are hopeful that this year will once again break records as holidaymakers look towards vacations in the UK.
Mr Asher, who is originally from Stratford-upon-Avon but moved to North Yorkshire with his family in 2001 at the age of 12, said: “Only a few months ago, things were pretty quiet, but I think people have taken stock because finances have become increasingly tight and they were just waiting to see exactly what they can afford.
“But we have seen bookings pick up a great deal, and we have actually opened up our calendar for reservations for next year already, which is a lot earlier than normal because we were getting so many inquiries.
“It does seem more and more people are looking to book a holiday in the UK, which is obviously really good news, and it is hopefully a trend that will continue for years to come.”
Mr Asher and Miss Jones have managed to keep price increases to a minimum of about five per cent to ensure their business remains competitive, and a two-bedroom cottage for a family-of-four is now being marketed for about £700 in August, which is the height of the tourism season.
Miss Jones, who is originally from Lancashire but now lives in Whitby six miles to the north of Robin Hood’s Bay, said: “There is so much on offer in North Yorkshire, but especially in the area around us here.
“We are on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, and major towns such as Scarborough and Whitby are so close by, but you also get the chance to sample what is such a nice safe haven in Robin Hood’s Bay, with glorious walks and nature on our doorstep.
“We do have such a loyal customer base already, especially from the North of England and places such as York, Sheffield, Middlesbrough and Newcastle, and it is true to say that we have become friends with some of the people who have visited over the years.
“But it is so heartening to think more people are looking to holiday in places like Robin Hood’s Bay, and if we do get the opportunity to show them just what is on offer, then hopefully they too will be considering coming back year after year.”