THE howls from our tourist industry are loud and clear as it suffers as much as any sector due to the Covid-19 restrictions.

Tourism is absolutely crucial to the economies of Durham and North Yorkshire and early bookings suggest that visitors will be keen to return in the second half of the summer – let us hope that their optimism is rewarded and we are all able to enjoy a change of scenery.

Reopening is going to be a difficult job for the Government, and the balance will be harder to strike because, until the virus is suppressed, it looks like there are going to be easily transmissible variants which have the potential to quickly sweep the country.

Many tourist businesses have used lockdown to invest in their products, both virtually and physically, making them safer in what is going to be a cautious future.

The Government must help them, although its most eye-catching and popular reopening initiative last year was Rishi Sunak’s Eat Out to Help Out scheme which was later criticised for accelerating the arrival of the second wave.

Despite this criticism, the Government should have imaginative schemes ready to go so that, when it is safe, people – and money – can be encouraged to return to our beautiful dales.