Campaign to boost £200m business tourism industry

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TOURISM chiefs have launched a campaign to promote York as one of the country’s key national conference destinations, boosting an industry worth more than £200m a year.

Visit York, the city’s official tourism agency, has announced the launch of a new business tourism brand, Visit York 4 Meetings, to create a stronger and more coherent marketing campaign to boost conference and events bookings to the city.

The campaign comes despite a national slump in the conference industry as organisers have either cancelled or scaled back events owing to financial constraints, which has hit the nearby Harrogate International Centre (HIC) particularly hard.

Earlier this month, director Angus Houston left his post at the HIC, which is owned and operated at arm’s length by Harrogate Borough Council, to seek a fresh challenge.

The venue - which is credited with generating up to £100m for the wider regional economy each year - has seen a drop in the number of events from 77 in 2010/11 to 64 in 2011/2012.

But yesterday, the chief executive of Visit York, Gillian Cruddas, maintained the city could continue to be a national conference destination despite the economic slump.

“As a city, you don’t get more diverse a range of conference venues than in York,” she said.

“Conference delegates have the added bonus when booking a meeting or event in the city of enjoying an award-winning leisure destination where they can experience the very best visitor attractions, theatres, restaurants and festivals.

“York will always add value to a delegate’s experience and Visit York 4 Meetings will take that message to a national and international audience.”

The campaign includes a ‘Visit York in London’ meet the buyer event, aimed at attracting conference buyers from London and the South, as well as a number of international business tourism marketing opportunities in partnership with Visit England.

Other projects include a Conference Ambassador Programme with 30 ambassadors on board, a dedicated sales day working with York venue sales staff to drive business conference bookings to the city, and a programme of exhibitions promoting venues.