A BODY responsible for tourism on the North York Moors has been urged to ensure it sets aside enough funding to help the visitor economy recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

North York Moors National Park Authority members have appealed for money to be made available for it to react with marketing campaigns as tourism opens up next year.

The calls, led by Andrew Scott, York Tourism Bureau chairman, came after it was revealed the authority was proposing to cut its government grant funded tourism action to zero to balance its books.

A full meeting of the authority heard due to increasing costs, such as staff wages, and government funding being insufficient, it was projecting a likely £374,000 deficit for the coming year, which would rise to £641,000 in three years’ time.

The authority’s financial future was more uncertain than it had ever been, members were told, due to numerous factors, including Brexit and Covid-19.

The meeting heard next year’s proposed budget would include savings in ways of working following the pandemic, such as a reduction in printing. It would also feature cuts in the use of its core government funding for a number of its services, including volunteers and rangers, historic buildings and conservation agreements.

However, the meeting was told the largest reduction from last year’s budget would be in tourism, with all £32,700 of the government grants being cut from its plans. The meeting heard that funding had been used to help small businesses develop and boost start-ups, as well as money for partnership work with Visit York and Visit Britain.

Officers said the vast majority of £200,000 of developers contributions would be used for a tourism marketing campaign and if its financial outlook improved by March the authority could reduce the cutbacks.

The meeting heard concerns that the authority’s decision to cut its tourism funding had partly been based on other tourism agencies maintaining their spending on marketing the North York Moors, but there continued to be uncertainty surrounding York’s tourist board.

Mr Scott said it was vital the authority was certain it would be able to support the park’s many providers of tourism services who in the past had been able to rely on the authority’s promotional work.

Mr Scott said: “I am conscious that the tourism industry, particularly the accommodation industry is very fragile at the moment. We have a situation where all our surrounding urban areas are in theory at least banned from coming to the park.

“That is having an impact, no question about it, on accommodation providers this Christmas. I can imagine a scenario where there is a significant need to help with promoting the area in the year ahead and I’d just like to be confident that we’re not going to turn around and say we haven’t made any provision for tourism promotion in the year ahead. I really think we need to be clear that we at least have a contingency from which that sort of help can be provided.”