Historic city sets out to create billion pound tourism industry

Jane Lady Gibson, chairman of Visit York in front of the Chinese locomotive KF7 at the National Railway Museum
Jane Lady Gibson, chairman of Visit York in front of the Chinese locomotive KF7 at the National Railway Museum
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An AMBITIOUS long-term bid to create a billion pound tourism industry for York over the next decade and attract a bigger slice of the global tourist market has been launched.

Tourism bosses have announced plans to persuade more visitors from North America and Europe, together with emerging markets such as China, to walk the city’s historic streets, marvel at its culture and visit its many attractions in a bid to boost the economy.

After a year of planning and consultation, Visit York, together with York Council, revealed ambitious plans to key players in the tourism industry at a business event at the National Railway Museum. The latest available figures show the city currently attracts seven million visitors a year who spend an estimated £443m annually.

Coun Sonja Crisp, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism said: “We have ambitious plans for tourism in York. Our strategy will be based on increasing visitor spend, attracting both leisure and business visitors from the UK and overseas and delivering a prosperous tourism sector for York over the next 10 years.”

Tourism bosses have revealed the billion pound figure will be generated through specifically targeting more overseas visitors, encouraging more people to come to the city in the off peak season, as well as targeting the lucrative conference business sector and extending the length of stay of both leisure and business visitors.

Visit York’s chairwoman, Jane Lady Gibson, said: “York’s brand name and brand values have high level recognition within the UK and internationally. By encouraging all businesses to put York at the heart of what they do, together we will have a stronger presence in a global tourism market. Partnership working will be the key to our success, building stronger working partnerships across the city to help deliver our collective ambitions.

“It’s full steam ahead now with our planning for the next decade.”

It was revealed yesterday that a new agency could be created to deliver the ambition. It would bring together the work of Visit York, the council’s arts and culture teams as well as city centre management and some inward investment. There will be close collaboration with Science City York, the universities and York@Large, the city’s Cultural Partnership.

An important element of York’s tourism blueprint will be to increase business visitors. Figures show the average spend per trip of a domestic business visitor on an overnight trip in the UK is 1.5 times higher per night than for a domestic leisure visitor, which means an increase in business visitors will have a positive impact on the amount visitors spend a year.

Those behind the move claim promoting and improving what York can offer culture lovers will be a key ingredient in encouraging visitors to stay longer, resulting in a higher average spend per trip.

While tapping into emerging overseas markets such as China will also help deliver on York’s tourism aims - figures suggest an overseas visitor will spend 1.3 times more per night in the UK on average than a domestic staying visitor and they will stay 2.4 times longer than a UK visitor.

Coun Crisp added: “Maximising the potential of overseas markets will increase tourism’s contribution to the city’s overall economic prosperity and through new ways of working, tourism can work even more as a driver to attract inward investment and overseas students to the city.”

Visit York is supported by the council and more than 700 tourism businesses and works in partnership with VisitEngland. Figures show that the value of tourism to the local economy has been rapidly increasing over the years and now tourism bosses hope that figure can be expanded over the next decade. In 1987 there were 2.1m visitors to York, spending a total of £55m and the latest figures suggest the city attracted 7.1m visitors, who spent an estimated £443m annually.

But these figures date back to 2008 when the last economic impact research into tourism was carried out. A new piece of research is just about to reach its conclusion and up-to-date figures will be announced on the value of tourism to York next month.