Yorkshire faces up to three winters in a row
I always enjoyed history lessons at school. One of the lessons that made the greatest impression on me was the struggle farmers faced throughout history to gather enough harvest and make it last through to have enough to start again the following spring. Winters were lean times. Communities had to eke out a living through forced rest. The idea that spring would follow winter was a fundamental force of nature, if that would ever change then disaster would surely follow.
Let me bring you back to modern times. Tourism is a seasonal business. Tourism in Yorkshire is worth £7.3bn to the local economy in 2019. Businesses in the sector earn two thirds of their income between March and the October half term holiday. Tourism employs 224,000 people in Yorkshire, 8.5 per cent of all jobs in the county.
COVID-19 and the Government lockdown following the arrival of the pandemic has forced many in the industry to contemplate a total loss of tourism this summer. The best they can hope for is a restart in free movement later in the year. The problem at the moment is predicting when the lockdown will be removed. This means that many face a restart just as the traditional tourist season is coming to a close. This is the historical subsistence farming equivalent of three winters in a row.
‘Welcome to Yorkshire’(WtY) is the official tourism agency for the county of Yorkshire, promoting Yorkshire tourism nationally and internationally. The website now carries helpful links for those business owners who are facing an extremely challenging time ahead this summer. Tourism faces particular difficulties due to the face-to-face nature of the industry and its dependency on the free movement of its customers. James Mason, WtY Chief Executive said, ‘If tourism is worth £9bn in a good year, the impact will be in the millions and approaching billions the longer [the lockdown] goes on. The biggest problem we have got is the uncertainty of not knowing when it will end. Tourism is a face-to-face industry and all of a sudden their trading opportunity has stopped.’
Suddenly that Bed and Breakfast you always had a hankering after in the Dales doesn’t seem to be so attractive any more.
The Government has said it will step up to the plate at this time of national and international economic crisis. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak the MP for Richmond since October 2015, has stated that the Government would meet 80 per cent of the wage bills of employees furloughed due to the crisis. The Government has also called for employees to work from home. This is completely inappropriate for the tourism industry. This therefore focuses the attention in Yorkshire on support for small businesses at a time of stress and how many of the same businesses can survive this to emerge as going concerns when this is all over.
People are under tremendous stress. Reduced income, insecure futures and the lack of contact with the outside world through social interaction with customers and other visitors put a great strain on the mental health as well as the physical health of communities.
Add children at home to the mix and it all contributes to a very stressful time for Yorkshire communities.
So what can we, as individuals, do about all this?
Historically when times were hard, people moved on to pastures new. Given the pandemic nature of this crisis and the isolationist ‘Brexit’ policies of our Government, we have no option to do so. Our farmers are crying out for workers that traditionally came from Eastern Europe to tend and then bring in our harvest.
We need a new relationship with our countryside and our Yorkshire communities. When this is over we will be ready to get back out there. For myself, I will walk that Dales walk I haven’t been able to do all summer, or perhaps bike up to my favourite Dales destination – Kettlewell. I will walk over the hill to the Falcon Inn at Arncliffe and walk back to Kettlewell to dine in one of the excellent pubs in the village. What more could you ask for from ‘God’s own county’?
Finally, I have to report on a story that I admit I haven’t been able to verify. A walker in Kettlewell out for her daily constitutional come across God doing something similar. Standing the statutory two metres away from God she asks,
“God ye alright lad”
“Just working from home my dear, just working from home.”