Tourism leaders have warned that the region’s £7bn-a-year industry is being affected in the wake of the Boxing Day flooding disaster as many potential visitors believe the region remains underwater.
Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity has accused the Government of contributing to a worrying fall in visitor numbers.
He believes the appointment of Scarborough MP Robert Goodwill as Floods Envoy for Yorkshire is damaging the economy by helping fuel the misconception that swathes of Yorkshire are closed for business. His comments come as tourism chiefs in York say it is “more vital than ever” to market the city world-wide, and one landlord said his bookings dropped by almost half in the wake of the Boxing Day floods.
Sir Gary, speaking 100 days to the start of the 2016 Tour de Yorkshire, said footfall has “dropped dramatically all over Yorkshire” - not just in the towns and regions hit by flooding.
“The view of people around the country is that large parts of Yorkshire are underwater and that’s clearly not the case,” he said. “The floods were a tragedy for all those people whose homes and businesses were affected, but the worst thing that could happen is that we lose all the headway Yorkshire has made in recent years.”
The tourism agency is lobbying Westminster for fund to run marketing campaigns to raise the region’s profile.
In York, tourism bosses will today announce plans for the “biggest and best” annual tourism campaign for the city and North Yorkshire. Record-breaking visitor spend of £608m will be revealed, alongside figures which show visitor numbers were up 1.5 per cent from 6.7m to 6.8m in 2015 compared to 2014.
But Kate McMullen, head of marketing at Make It York, said a new publicity drive was more important than ever.
She said: “We know it has been a very difficult start to the year for businesses. However, these latest tourism figures are a sign of confidence in York and are testament to the city’s popularity and resilience. After the Boxing Day floods it is now more vital than ever that our marketing reaches audiences world-wide.”
Hoteliers in York have reported massive falls in the numbers of new bookings since the floods, together with unprecedented levels of cancellations.
Brian Fury, landlord of the Gillygate pub, saw 44 per cent of his bookings cancelled after the centre of York flooded on Boxing Day.
June Wood, who runs the Ascot House bed and breakfast in Heworth, said 50 per cent of bookings in the week after Christmas were cancelled.
“We have been in business for 25 years and I’ve never known the trade be as bad as it is at the moment,” she added.
Meanwhile, North Yorkshire County Council is reminding drivers to heed warning signs and not go onto closed roads as a handful of flood-related road and bridge closures remain in force around the county.