FESTIVE shoppers spent almost £150m in York last year, according to figures which indicate how much locked-down retailers are missing out on.

Andrew Lowson, of the York BID, said data from Visa showed £146m was spent in the city centre in the build-up to Christmas 2019, of which £59m came from visitors who had travelled from at least 50km away.

"We have to be realistic - that market isn't necessarily going to be there," he told delegates during a mini tourism conference.

At the event, which was held as part of York Business Week, industry experts were invited to shed light on how the pandemic has impacted them.

Cllr Darryl Smalley chaired the conference which concluded with a Q&A session, featuring Andrew Lowson; Sean Bullick, of Make It York; Martin Bradnam, Hoteliers Association York (HAY); Kate McMullen, English Heritage; and Tom Pearcy, York Maze.

Andrew said this second lockdown felt different to the first. "One of the positives for York is that it did better than other cities in terms of of recovery. We lost a lot of spend but we did make that back, or certain parts of it, within the summer."

But retailers were now worried, especially because the online shopping trend had continued, he said. "Some businesses can make a third of their annual turnover in the lead-up to Christmas."

Tom Pearcy, of York Maze, Elvington, told delegates his attraction was fully seasonal, usually open for summer and Halloween.

"What we effectively did for the summer was keep the lights on. It's a big expensive event to get off the ground. I didn't want to commit to the spend of trying to open for the summer. We had to make a call, and my call was don't risk the investment, and weather the storm."

He said they adapted their Hallowscream event, which normally attracts about 35,000 people, to a smaller, Covid-secure Hallowtween event which worked well.

"I think a lot of businesses do need to concentrate on just keeping the lights on and not spend an awful lot of money, or waste a lot of money, on marketing to a market that effectively isn't there," he said.

"Still keep battening down the hatches and look to capitalise in springtime when people are back outside again. It 's a difficult time. There are no easy solutions."

Martin Bradnam, of HAY, said hotel bookings were coming in last minute and the lead-in pace was diminishing.

He felt people would be hoping for holidays abroad in 2021, so York hotels would be reliant on staycations and short breaks which would be last minute and dependent on whether big events like York races went ahead.