EFFORTS to attract the Far East tourist pound to Yorkshire have intensified as tourism chiefs hope to cash in on attention drawn by the wedding of one of Taiwan’s biggest pop stars.
Thousands of tourists have flocked to Selby Abbey since the wedding of singer and actor Jay Chou in January.
Make It York, the city’s new over-arching tourism body, has released 35,000 copies of York’s Visitor Guide in Mandarin as it attempts to tap into the lucrative Far East audience and further boost the historic city’s tourism industry, which is worth over half a billion pounds a year.
The guide contains a feature on the Chou celebrations, which included a reception at Castle Howard. Since the news went viral, interest in York and Yorkshire has increased in China.
Kate McMullen, head of consumer products and marketing at Make It York, said: “China is estimated to be York’s tenth largest overseas tourism market and our relationship with the Far East continues to grow and develop.We are keen to build on this momentum and pitch York as the ultimate holiday and business destination for the consumer and trade Chinese market.”
The initiative will see the guide distributed via five inbound airlines from China, at arrival lounges in London and Stansted as well as visa application offices in Beijing and Shanghai.
Tourism bosses are hoping to attract high-end shoppers, as well as promoting other city attractions such as the Minster and York Brewery - as visitor feedback suggests the Chinese are getting a taste for the region’s beer.
Selby Abbey now welcomes “a few hundred” visitors from the Far East each week, it’s vicar, Rev Canon John Weetman said.
Since the Chou wedding, it has hosted at least one wedding blessing a month for couples from China, Taiwan and South Korea.
“We’ve had many more enquiries too, plus couples who come to the Abbey dressed in their suits and wedding dresses just to take photographs here.” Rev Weetman said. “As well as your average visitors, we have a steady stream of groups and coach trips. We seem to have become a notable de-tour, with around double the number of visitors than before the Chou wedding.”
Castle Howard, the venue for the Chou wedding reception, has seen international group numbers rise by 184 per cent this year, with an estimated two thirds from the Far East.
It has made huge efforts to make their visits easier, including introducing Mandarin leaflets and signage, and setting up an account of Weibo, the Chinese alternative to Twitter. A representative also travel to Beijing with a tourism delegation in November. It was also included in a VisitBritain campaign earlier this year which saw 101 UK landmarks given China-friendly names - it was given ‘The Magnificent Fairyland Palace.’
Castle Howard’s press and communications manager Hannah Cooke said: “There has been a concerted effort by tourism groups to encourage visitors from the Far East to get off the train from London to Edinburgh and explore, but the reception in January certainly sped things up for us.
“The trend is to pack as much in as they can. They don’t spend hours, but pull up, take a few photos and get back on the tour bus. It’s tourism is a whole different way than we’re use to, so it’s up to us to ensure they get the most they can from their visit.”