HOSPITALITY players and retailers in York are cautiously hopeful about the crucial festive season amid concerns over the Omicron variant.

The prime minster has said the government does not want people to cancel events such as Christmas parties and nativity plays, pledging to 'throw everything' at the booster vaccination campaign to tackle the variant’s spread.

Despite that, pubs, restaurants and hotels nationally have reported receiving booking cancellations.

York appears to be bucking that trend with bars, restaurants, hotels and the high street looking buoyant.

York Press:

Rebecca Hill, chair of Indie York which represents independent businesses, said recent announcements had actually generated a boost in sales as people rushed to get their Christmas shopping done early.

St Nicholas Fair is contributing to the city's appeal as many other towns and cities have cancelled their Christmas markets.

York Press:

Ashley Young, of Make It York said: "York is a very desirable destination this Christmas, with St Nicholas Fair in full swing and lots of festivities taking place across the historic city.

"Positively, many hotels and event spaces have seen minimal cancellations for meetings and events, and room occupancy is still looking strong as we enter December.

"The Visit York website hit an all-time record of visitor numbers in November, suggesting that York residents and visitors are still very much interested in the city's offerings.

"This Christmas season is going to be a critical period for our accommodation, hospitality and attractions, so it's as important as ever that visitors and residents continue to follow public health guidance and wear face coverings in busy spaces and indoor settings and stay safe this festive season."

York Press:

Picture: Press Camera Club member Vanessa Fitzpatrick

Andrew Lowson, at the York BID, which works with city centre businesses, agreed that the news about the omicron variant had not yet had a knock-on effect in York's hospitality sector.

"Bookings for Christmas celebrations appear strong, although restaurants are mindful this could change in line with any further health updates. Feedback from retail is that the public are complying with government advice regarding face coverings and have started their Christmas shopping in earnest.”

York Press:

York artist Ben Staves, of Staves Art, at his stall at the St Nicholas Fair.

Rebecca Hill, of Galtres Lodge and Forest, said their bedroom bookings in December were currently at 91 per cent occupancy and the restaurant was extremely busy as well.

"We haven't seen a huge surge in cancellations since the new rules were announced."

York Press:

Rebecca, who also chairs Indie York, said: "Some retailers have suggested they have been busier in the past week, with people concerned of future restrictions wanting to get their Christmas shopping in earlier. So for some Indie York members, the recent announcements have actually generated a boost in sales, rather than the other way around.

"I think that the fact that York is one of a few cities still hosting a Christmas market has helped us hugely, the demand for York’s hospitality sector is overwhelming.

"Unfortunately, many colleagues in the industry are not able to meet this demand due to staffing shortages, which must be extremely stressful.

"We are lucky to have a steady team, and we work very hard to ensure their job satisfaction, largely with regards to reasonable working hours, which has certainly helped us recruit chefs specifically.

"The streets are very busy, and this year more than ever businesses are able to change and adapt quickly to the customer’s wants.

"I think that Covid has opened everybody’s eyes to how we can continue trading during difficult times.

York Press:

Galtres Lodge in York has launched a ‘star grazing’ package

"As a small site, once Forest is full, it's full, so to meet demand we have re-opened our takeaway hatch for mulled wine, mulled cider, and boozy hot chocolates, and we have created a special “star-grazing” package to encourage people to use our heated outside seating in our secret garden despite the fact it’s winter and outside tables are not as popular as they were in the summer."

A spokesman at The Grand, York's only five-star hotel, said they were keeping a close eye on the situation and trends."We are still seeing increased business levels and continue to see high levels interest and engagement across all of our offerings. At the moment, we aren’t seeing many cancellations so currently this isn’t a pressing worry of ours."

Ruslana Yarmolyuk, general manager of Mercure York Fairfield Manor and a hotel in Sheffield, said she had had two events cancelled in December following Boris’s announcement.

But, other guests had asked to move their Christmas parties to this week due to the uncertainty about the future situation, and room bookings were steady with tour groups still enquiring about last-minute availability.

"The Christmas fair in York is definitely one of the main drivers for accommodation revenue," she said.

Further afield, Ingo Wiangke, at the Feversham Arms Hotel in Helmsley, said: “We are fully booked for the Christmas period and filling up for the New Year. We follow the guidance to ensure the safety of our guests and our team.

"The team wear masks and we find that the majority of our guest do too as we all want to do everything that we can to avoid a repeat of this time last year.”

York Press:

Ingo Wiangke, general manager of Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa, in Helmsley

Dave Walker, general manager at The Black Swan in Helmsley, added: “We have seen a high demand for accommodation over Christmas. Our rooms are fully booked for Christmas staycations and bookings remain strong for rooms leading up to and over the festive period.”