Recently there has been a constant hum of ‘small town, stay home’ rhetoric both on Social Media and also, on occasion in the print media. This is driven by a small, but unfortunately vocal minority, pushing ‘stay away’ messages, often in response to very polite and reasonable requests for information and typically from the safety of their keyboards. The majority of townsfolk genuinely appreciate tourists and totally understand how important the tourism industry is to the modern-day Whitby.
Admittedly, there is a lot of concern amongst the community, for the potential virus impact that an influx of day visitors could have. In the weeks since Boris Johnson announced unlimited travel there has been a continuous up-tick in visitors to the town, causing an undercurrent of anxiety. However, the majority of day visitors have been respectful and mostly stayed on the beaches. Just the odd one or two have caused some much-publicised concerns. It is always attractive for people and the media to focus on the negative instances, whilst peaceful and responsible visitors go unnoticed.
An example of the generous spirit of the town is its businesses most of which have been and are being massively impacted by the Covid-19 crisis as all the hospitality businesses are closed. Even the medium-term prospects are very worrying, due to the impact of social distancing and anxiety in both guests and businesses. When I asked the Whitby Hospitality Group; more than 80% said they would open in July, when the Govt says it is OK to do so and a similar number, over 80% said they expect business to be significantly down on normal levels with 65% saying that business would be down by 50% and another 25% expecting business to be down by a massive 75%. Guest houses are nervous about re-opening, the smaller pubs won’t be viable due to the impact of social distancing, and we fear a wave of business closures, despite the Government support received so far. So, this backdrop makes the Whitby Thank You Weekend offer of nearly 200 free rooms, hundreds of free drinks, and free meals to NHS frontline workers all the more wonderful.
The town loves its visitors and can’t wait to welcome them back when it can do so safely. Until then, we do reluctantly ask people who love Whitby to resist the temptation to come into the town. As soon as we can, we will welcome people with open arms. Safely.