Fears for future of hundreds of county's tourism companies

Hundreds of tourism companies in Yorkshire could go to the wall as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Welcome to Yorkshire’s chief executive has warned.

By Ian Hirst
Sunday, 26th April 2020, 9:00 am
James Mason  the new chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire
James Mason the new chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire

James Mason said the tourism agency has already been made aware of dozens of firms that have already gone out of business and expects the situation to worsen.

“We have a couple of thousand members. Some have told us they won’t be able to continue and are going out of business,” he said.

“Businesses are having to give in because it is one thing trying to reduce your costs but if income stops, you can’t continue. I’m expecting hundreds if not thousands to end up in this position across the county and many more nationally.

Sign up to our daily Dewsbury Reporter Today newsletter

“We are aware of dozens going out of business and the numbers are increasing on a daily basis. The figures may be even higher because obviously not every tourism business in Yorkshire is part of Welcome to Yorkshire.”

He said it is small independent businesses reliant on footfall and physical visitors that are most in danger.

“Anyone that relies on footfall or contact with people are the most at risk of going out of business.” Welcome to Yorkshire has been lobbying Chancellor Rishi Sunak on behalf of B&Bs who fear they will be unable to survive as a result of missing out on a Government grant scheme because they pay council tax instead of business rates – an issue believed to affect hundreds of B&Bs in Yorkshire and up to 10,000 across the country.

Mr Mason said the tourism agency is adjusting its role in response to the pandemic.

“I’m conscious that Welcome to Yorkshire has been fantastic at celebrating everything great about Yorkshire and what we could do in the good times. Now the challenge is how we can provide a valuable service in times of real difficulty.”

Among the changes have been the suspension of membership fees for three months, the company’s website offering support on the different Government funding available to tourism businesses and the launch of a #YorkshireTogether campaign.

Kirklees councillor Rob Walker, Cabinet Member for Culture and the Environment, said: “Whilst this is a difficult time for the tourism sector, no price can be put on people’s lives. Which is why we wholeheartedly support national guidance and are discouraging people from visiting our cultural venues.

“Our parks, including Oakwell Country Park, remain open for local people to take their daily exercise but now is not the time to come for a visit from further afield. Oakwell Hall has been here for centuries and will be here for years to come for people to enjoy when the time is right. If we all follow the advice to stay at home, only travel when it is essential, keep 2meteres away from each other and keep washing our hands, then hopefully we’ll be able to open the doors again soon.”