IN just a few short weeks, the coronavirus pandemic that has swept around the world has turned all our lives on their heads.

It is deadly serious - the rising death toll is testament to that, though thankfully the vast majority of people who contract it do recover.

And it will affect us all - even those of us who get it and recover, or who never get it at all. That is because of the devastating impact the virus is having on our economy, and on our jobs and livelihoods.

Nowhere is that impact being felt more than in tourism - a sector on which York and Yorkshire rely so heavily.

It is a sector which is worth £9 billion a year to the Yorkshire economy as a whole, and which directly employs about 225,000 people. In York alone, the sector brings in £765 million each year and supports more than 24,000 jobs.

But by definition, tourism tends to involve people physically visiting a place - eating and drinking in cafés and pubs, visiting galleries and other attractions, attending festivals and events, walking in the great outdoors for which Yorkshire is so rightly renowned.

Yet now, because of the pandemic and the consequent lockdown, all is eerily silent. Cafés, pubs and restaurants are closed, museums and galleries are empty, and our most beautiful landscapes - the Moors, the Dales, the coast, the Wolds - are empty and deserted.

There has been a devastating toll on the major events which form such an important part of the York and Yorkshire calendar, too. The Great Yorkshire Show: cancelled. The Tour de Yorkshire: postponed. York Open Studios: cancelled. The York Chocolate Festival and York Pride: both cancelled. The entire York racing programme: officially suspended until April 30 - but likely to be postponed for much longer, given the way things are going.

Even when the pandemic is over, how are we possibly going to come back from this?

Things are going to be tough for tourism-related businesses, admits James Mason, the Bradford-born former BBC sports reporter and one-time director of operations at Bradford City football club who has taken over as the new boss of Welcome to Yorkshire, the county's tourist board.

"All our events have been postponed or cancelled," he said. "It has decimated plans for many businesses in Yorkshire and further afield."

The problems may perhaps be particularly acute for York, James says, because the city boasts so many of the country's flagship destinations - York Minster, the National Railway Museum, the ancient walled city itself.

It isn't just businesses and attractions directly involved in tourism which are suffering as a result of the lockdown, he stresses. "If people cannot do what they would normally do (in terms of travelling and going out) then it has a huge knock-on effect," he says.

For James, therefore - who only joined Welcome to Yorkshire on January 6 - it has been a real baptism of fire.

The challenges facing the organisation - and the tourism industry more generally - have been huge. First, there was some major rebuilding to do at Welcome to Yorkshire after the Gary Verity years. Then there was the impact on tourism caused by uncertainty over Brexit.

When James joined the organisation in January, it at least looked as though a line was being drawn under that - whether you liked the resolution to the bitter Brexit argument or not.

Then, just as it seemed as though things might be about to pick up, the coronavirus struck.

The job of Welcome to Yorkshire now, he says, is to try to help businesses through the crisis until things can pick up again.

That job is made more difficult by the fact that his own organisation has been affected just like everyone else. Some staff have had to be put on furlough. "It was necessary, because of the huge number of events that have been cancelled," he says.

All other staff - himself included - are working from home.

Yet there are many things the organisation has been doing and will continue to do to try to promote and support the county's tourism industry during lockown, James says.

There was the Welcome to Yorkshire World Cup, for a start - a unique knockout vote on Twitter to find people's favourite Yorkshire building.

The 'world cup' attracted more than 33,000 votes in total and it was won by The Piece Hall in Halifax (Britain's only surviving cloth hall), with Fountain's Abbey the losing finalist and York Minster a semi-finalist.

It was a great way of keeping York's great buildings and places in the forefront of people's minds during the lockdown, says James. "And it makes a handy list of places people might want to visit once they are able to!" he says.

The 'Welcome to Yorkshire World Cup' will be running regularly on Twitter - there are plans for one every other week for the next few weeks, with a different theme each time - next week's is likely to be a vote for your favourite Yorkshire 'natural lamndmark'. Expect Brimham Rocks, Malham Cove, the Hole of Horcum, Aysgarth Falls and many more to feature prominently. Check out Welcome To Yorkshire on Twitter - @Welcome2Yorks - to find out more

Other things Welcome to Yorkshire is doing include:

- A #YorkshireWishList - a list updated daily on Twitter at @Welcome2Yorks of 'amazing places to visit and things to see and do in Yorkshire, once it is safe to do so'.

- Yorkshire Days In: a dedicated section on the Welcome to Yorkshire website ( where tourism businesses and organisations can post details of online activities and events they are running during the lockdown.

Castle Howard, for example, has launched a 'Drawing Castle Howard' competition. "Castle Howard are on the lookout for the best drawing, painting or collage of the house and gardens," the great house says. "So get your crayons out, paint brushes at the ready and unleash your creative side for your chance to win a family gardens admission ticket when Castle Howard reopens. Share your pictures on Twitter using #YorkshireTogether or, if you're not on Twitter, email your entry through to The most creative entry will be chosen on Friday 10th April. York's Grand Cookery School, meanwhile, has posted four recipes for people to try at home - including meatballs and bubble and squeak

- A 'Best of Yorkshire voucher' scheme, again on the Welcome to Yorkshire website, The scheme allows you to buy vouchers for visits to a host of Yorkshire attractions that can be redeemed once the pandemic is over and we can all travel again. It is essentially a 'pay now, visit later' scheme - and that's hugely important, says James Mason, because it is a way of helping businesses through these difficult times. "It can really help with cash flow."

- A Tourism Industry Support page, again at, which gathers together details of all the latest support available for businesses, together with advice and tips on how to adapt your business during lockdown. Tips include creating vouchers, encouraging pre-orders, switching to a delivery or takeaway service for restaurants and coffee bars, and much more.


This is a 'hugely challenging' time for local businesses, says Make It York boss Sean Bullick.

But his organisation, like Welcome to Yorkshire, is doing what it can to help local businesses though - and to plan for a future when things will be back to something like normal.

For the first time, this year's Visit York Tourism Awards will be a 'virtual ceremony'. This, Sean says, is so as to ensure 'tourism businesses across the city still get the recognition they deserve for all the hard work they have put in over the last twelve months'.

The organisation is also looking ahead to plan for events later in the year.

"We are already looking at our plans for a 'recovery' campaign and ways to continue to engage with people about the unique 'Only in York' experiences on offer in the city," Sean said. "And our team are also working on promoting the wonderful work being done in the city by businesses to adapt to these challenging circumstances - whether that is through diversifying by offering delivery or online options, or through sharing inspirational content online that engages with our residents and future visitors."