YORK has recorded one of the largest post-lockdown surges in city centre footfall of anywhere in the UK, new research shows.
But the city has seen a notable fall in people from the suburbs travelling into town – sparking fears that York may struggle financially throughout the winter, as tourism levels drop.
The latest research from the Centre for Cities shows that footfall in York city centre increased by 35 per cent between the week commencing 29 June and August 3 – the third biggest jump in the UK.
The city’s footfall is now at 75 per cent of normal levels – with the Centre for Cities recovery tracker classing York’s economy as back to ‘moderately strong’ – and spending is now at 97 per cent, rising from a low of seven per cent in April.
But they say that some residents are still staying away. Data shows that nearly two-thirds of visitors to the city centre are from outside York – with over 70 per cent of visitors being tourists at the weekend – while those visiting from city suburbs has fallen below 30 per cent.
The report added that questions remain over whether footfall increase can be sustained into the autumn months.
City of York Council Labour group leader, Cllr Danny Myers said: “Being such a special city, with great places to eat out, drink and shop means York is well placed to bounce back from the huge hit to the local economy. But Centre for Cities is right to point out that by winter, with many still working from home and with poorer weather, some businesses could struggle and some may not survive without more support from the Government.
Phil Pinder, chairman of York Retail Forum, said: “Once the quieter weeks return – when the schools go back – then shops and restaurants will start to struggle.
“This is why I have been calling on city partners to help with launching crucial incentives on both public transport and car parking.
“Incentives such as £1 parking and £1 bus services may help residents return to the city centre again.”
Cllr Andrew Waller, the council’s executive member for economy and strategic planning, said: “It’s encouraging to see footfall in the city centre rise to around 70 per cent normal figures, which is well above the national average for high streets.
“As we have seen a slight drop in residents opting for a visit to the city centre, we continue working with partners and businesses to support the development of a safe and welcoming city centre environment for all.
“The resident-focused promotional campaigns developed together with York BID, The Retail Forum and Make It York, are currently being rolled out to encourage more residents back into the city centre, with more exciting events to come throughout the school term.
“The overall picture for York is optimistic, with the data showing people steadily returning to York’s city centre. We continue to work with partners to offer support to city’s businesses and put in place all necessary safety precautions to ensure that the progress that has been made in controlling the virus through our collective effort is maintained.”