Tourism leaders in York have pledged to create a £1bn annual economy within the next five years but conceded they are faced with the dilemma of ensuring the historic city’s medieval streets are not swamped by visitors.
Official figures published today (January 16) have revealed that the city, which is one of the North of England’s most popular destinations, has witnessed a surge in the number of tourists, who have brought in £765m to an industry that is supporting 24,000 jobs.
The latest statistics for 2018 show there are now 8.4m visits to York each year – a 12 per cent rise – with a 20 per cent increase in tourists’ spending which is the equivalent of £126m.
The head of marketing and communications at the tourism organisation, Make It York, Paul Whiting, told The Yorkshire Post that the ambition remains to reach an annual £1bn tourism industry after an initial strategy was launched six years ago.
A revised strategy will be unveiled today at the city’s annual tourism conference, which will see 300 delegates attend the event at York Racecourse.
A marketing drive will be undertaken to persuade visitors to stay overnight rather than simply undertake day trips to York, although Mr Whiting admitted he was acutely aware that the city could not be swamped by ever-increasing numbers of tourists.
READ MORE: Legal firm Knights to create jobs in York as it opens new office
READ MORE: The florist who became a nurse at 38 heads up care at a Yorkshire children’s hospice
He said: “We are mindful to ensure that the whole visitor experience is about value, both in terms of the offer that is available in the city as well as the experience that people have here.
"There is so much on offer in York but it remains a living, breathing city which cannot simply be overtaken by tourists.
“We want the residents of the city to feel very much a part of the tourism industry as well, so that they can also enjoy what the city has to offer as well.”
Day visitors account for four out of every five tourists in York, with a small growth in overnight visits of 4,000 more visits or 316,000 more bed nights.
There has, however, been a decline in the length of stays to an average of 2.2 nights, which is part of a steady fall over the past decade of about four per cent each year.
Mr Whiting also conceded that the drive to encourage more overnight stays could place additional pressures on York’s notoriously expensive property market, with more homes converted to accommodate visitors.
The growth of Airbnb-style short-term lets has escalated to such an extent in Edinburgh, that the Scottish government announced this month it would introduce a licensing system by spring 2021.
The tourism strategy for York will continue to focus on bringing visitors in from London and the South-East, along with the foreign markets of the USA, China, Australia, Germany and the Netherlands.