Britain is bracing itself for a summer boom in staycations. But not every tourist destination is going to feel the benefit.

According to some new research from customer experience consultancy Brand Vista, just 22% of the population is considering a city break in the UK this year, less than half the 46% of people that did pre-pandemic back in 2019.

It’s a stark reminder that our city centres may not be quite no-go areas, but large numbers of people remain seriously apprehensive about going into built-up areas, whether for work or pleasure.

There is growing optimism in the pub, bar and restaurant community that business is set to bounce back strongly as restrictions ease over the spring and summer.

All the consumer research points to pent up demand, with customers eager to get back to eating and drinking out. The surge in bookings for outside dining that many operators have already experienced just confirms the sense that normality may be just around the corner.

While more rural holiday attractions may well rebuild relatively quickly, our major urban centres still face a challenge. It’s not just on the tourism front, of course, as no-one really knows the extent to which working from home will become the norm.

Multi-nationals like Goldman Sachs may well be championing the return to traditional corporate office culture, but others like BP are embracing a hybrid model. The oil giant has told office-based staff, including 6,000 in the UK, that they will be expected to spend two days a week, 40% of their hours, working from home after lockdown restrictions ease.

Alongside the high-profile shake-up of the retail landscape, the office property market is also seeing disruption. Property agency Savills reports that the amount of empty office space in the London market alone has more than doubled since the first lockdown, from 2.9m sq ft available at the end of last March to 6.1m sq ft at the end of January this year. About three quarters of that extra 3.2m sq ft is said to be space offloaded by big corporations.

There is going to be a need for a lot of imagination, as well as incentives, from both business and local authorities to rebuild city-based visitor and workplace economies – with London, with its greater dependence on international tourism and trade, with the biggest challenge.

That’s not to say our cities should be written off, but they will be different environments. That needs to be factored in. But in turn that should offer opportunities for the savvy and creative.

As other markets show, building confidence to return will be an important part of the offer, as much as the wow. While younger consumers generally have fewer concerns about going out again, there remain a sizeable portion of the public that need a level of reassurance.

It’s not just about showing that hospitality is safe, but cities are safe too, as is getting to and from them. The research from Brand Vista, which works with the likes of Merlin and Greene King, shows for instance that 27% of the public see airports and planes as high risk. Perhaps like cities, it’s because people generally haven’t been to them for such a long time. Familiarity has evaporated.

Our cities will present the toughest and trickiest of trading environments this summer. Although the young may flock back early, it will take a concerted and collaborative marketing effort to convince others that the city is as attractive as the coast or countryside.

Of course, if the streets are going to be emptier this year, now probably is the best time to visit. Book me in.