Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce News

Impact of coronavirus on the Harrogate district

17 Mar 2020 by Sandra Doherty

A message from Sandra Doherty, CEO of Harrogate District Chamber of Commerce, as the impact of coronavirus begins to be felt in our area.

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"The situation in the town is really quite desperate. The knock-on effect stemming from a wet winter when nobody wanted to be out in the cold and rain was exacerbated by several weekends of storm warnings which has also kept people away.

"We are now faced with Covid-19 which will have a massive impact on the town.

The whole hospitality industry - bars, restaurants, hotels, guesthouses and places of entertainment - are already suffering mass cancelations and few to no forward bookings. We should be looking forward to spring weather and several bank holidays to bring in some much-needed trade, but now we are basically unable to trade.

"Although the offer of no rates to pay for those of us who fit into that category and the £3k offer for those who don’t pay rates will help with one of the many bills we will still have despite not having an income, the reality is it's just not enough to make any real difference. Those larger businesses don’t even have the offer of £3k, which surely can’t be right.

"Many of us employers in the hospitality industry employ on minimum hours contracts or even a casual basis. Sadly, these will be the first cutbacks and will impact a large section of Harrogate’s workforce.  

"What then, we ask?

"We will all look to our mortgage providers, banks and landlords as this is obviously the next biggest outgoing. For many, this will be the end of the road as the thought of this debt being added to a future payment will be the last straw.

"Unfortunately, a room for the night, or a night in your favourite pub or restaurant isn’t like a can of beans and cannot be put back on the shelf and sold later.

"The thought that we may get an upswing in trade later in the year won't really help. We would have sold those rooms anyway so it wont come as extra or something we can rely on.

"Sadly, there are many other businesses - hairdressers, dentists and others - who have close personal contact with their customers are already reporting losses of business.

"These people, however employed, are all spenders in our town. They will be saving every penny and hoping for the best.

"Businesses who are largely office-based will have to rely on their workers being able to work from home. Sounds good when you say it quickly, doesn’t it?

"In reality, many of these businesses rely on customers buying houses, needing solicitors, accounts being processed. Yes, you guessed it - money is really tight!

"A lot of these things just won’t happen as we all go into a sort of forced hibernation for the next three months.

"There are those too who rely on either importing or exporting to the rest of the world. Are planes going to still carry this cargo? Will other countries be manufacturing these items? As the world trade slows down what will happen to them?

"Our beloved town has looked like a ghost town of late and I fear even some sunshine won’t bring the crowds to look at our beautiful spring flowers. A treat I am going to enjoy – a wander round the Valley Gardens keeping at least three feet away from everybody.

"Let's all think carefully and try and support businesses locally. Keep an eye on our elderly friends and relatives especially those who are in business. "Remember if they have to isolate they may need a hand with their business."