A council officer charged with leading North Yorkshire’s economic recovery has forecast “an absolute boom year” for businesses, partly due to people having spent less during the pandemic and staycations.
James Farrar, assistant director of North Yorkshire’s economic recovery unit, said with the county’s large hospitality and tourism sectors, if businesses were able to recruit staff the county would be well placed to take advantage of the £160bn of excess savings that people had not spent over the past year.
The prediction follows figures from the Office for National Statistics that Yorkshire and the Humber’s economy shrank by more than 20 per cent in the first coronavirus lockdown.
It found hotels and restaurants were worst-hit, with trade down 77 per cent.
Mr Farrar told a meeting of North Yorkshire County Council’s Richmondshire constituency committee recent reports from the tourism sector were that much of the county’s accommodation was already booked up for this year.
He added North Yorkshire’s town centres would be relatively resilient because of the low presence of large chain retailers as people continue to buy online and because they are leisure destinations and said the increasing numbers of flights at Teesside Airport boded well for business in the northern districts such as Richmondshire and Hambleton.
He said: “People are increasingly reluctant to book going abroad and there are a lot of people who are looking to stay in the UK and that’s a fact we need to take advantage of. People haven’t been able to spend money and are desperate to go on holiday.
“We do expect this year to be an absolute boom year. Clearly there are health risks with that and we re expect people to do the social distancing.
“I expect there to be a really good bounce back this year because of the suppressed demand, but we mustn’t be fooled by that. There are some real challenges that are going to come up for our town centres and we need to be investing now to take advantage of that.”
The meeting heard almost 90 per cent of businesses in the county employed less than ten people, most of which were family-run ventures that had to withhold the last year and survive through the pandemic and that business failures were at an all-time low because the government had propped up firms through the furlough and business support schemes.
He said: “Business survival rates are at one of the highest they have ever been. Notwithstanding that you would expect some correction to that over the next year as we come out of Covid and government support eases off.”
The meeting heard the most pressing issues facing the county following the pandemic were ensuring universal internet connectivity and sufficient affordable housing, which Mr Farrar said would act as “a handbrake on the economy” as firms were unable to recruit staff.