Harrogate hotel owners call on locals to rally around Yorkshire's guest houses

When Mark and Gillian Church found Harrogate, they knew there was no turning back to their homeland of South Africa.

By John Blow
Saturday, 20th June 2020, 4:45 pm
Mark and Gillian Church have had no income during the lockdown. Picture: Tony Johnson.
Mark and Gillian Church have had no income during the lockdown. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The couple moved from Johannesburg to the North Yorkshire spa town in December to take over the Scotia House hotel in King's Road.

Intending to settle in and take a run-up to the typically busy summer season, business closed abruptly when lockdown began in March.

Mr Church, 55, said this had a "devastating" impact on their plans - they estimate missing out on tens of thousands of pounds in recent months - and the pair are appealing to locals to stay close for their holidays this year to rally around the area's guest houses.

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Mark and Gillian Church. Picture: Tony Johnson.

The couple, who have three daughters between them, had toured around England before deciding to commit to Yorkshire.

Mrs Church, 60, came to the UK with more than 30 years in events, running major Government conferences and being involved in the 2010 FIFA World Cup through her company Village Exhibitions & Events.

She said: "The first time I walked into Harrogate I just saw a town that was loved by the community. Everywhere you go the gardens are beautiful, the streets are clean, it's very unlike the other places we tried before we came to Harrogate.

"When I saw how the town looks after the town, I was blown away."

Mr Church said they have received "zero income" during the lockdown period, and though they were able to receive Government relief funding, this has dried up.

"It's just devastating for all of us," he said.

The five-room guest house they run is in the shadow of the Harrogate Convention Centre - a major source of custom for hotels in the area - but as this is currently ready to serve as a Nightingale hospital there is no certainty about when it will recommence as an events venue and benefit surrounding businesses.

"We just don't know how many people will come for a holiday," said Mr Church, who used to be in sales and marketing.

But he added: "There's so much to do even if the pubs and restaurants aren't at full strength.

"Treat it as a new adventure."