Foreign visits to Yorkshire reach pre-downturn levels

MORE tourists from overseas visited Yorkshire in the first half of this year than in any six-month period since the start of the economic downturn, new figures have revealed.

School rolls in parts of the Upper Dales have fallen dramatically in a generation.
School rolls in parts of the Upper Dales have fallen dramatically in a generation.

According to VisitBritain, from January to June the region welcomed 607,000 inbound international visits, an increase of seven per cent on the same period in 2013 and the highest number of visits for five years.

The national tourism agency, responsible for marketing Britain worldwide, said this growth meant visitor numbers were moving towards the 2008 pre-economic crisis record of 635,000 visits over six months.

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And Yorkshire’s performance is expected to be significantly better in the second half of the year, when figures will include the region’s successful hosting of the Tour de France Grand Départ which saw millions of people line the route of the world’s most famous cycling race.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire.

The amount spent during visits to Yorkshire in the first six months of 2014 was £225 million, higher than any other year apart from 2013 when a record-breaking £242 million was spent.

Visits from Australia, Hong Kong and the US were most valuable overall, contributing £25 million, £19 million and £16 million to the region’s economy respectively.

Patricia Yates, Director of Strategy and Communications at VisitBritain, said: “Early indications suggest that 2014 is shaping up to be another record year for inbound tourism to Yorkshire, with the impact of hosting the Tour de France Grand Depart on a global stage still to come.

“Already the region is bucking national trends in showing major growth from the US, our most valuable UK market, as well as strong growth from European markets.”

Gary Verity, chief executive of regional tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “The team at Welcome to Yorkshire has worked tirelessly to put our county where it belongs, on the world stage.

“Since we announced our bid was successful to bring the Tour de France to Yorkshire we’ve seen a huge surge in interest, visits and importantly spend in the county.

“2013 saw a 35 per cent rise in international visitor spend ‎and now we see that the first half of 2014 follows this trend, which is brilliant news for our Yorkshire tourism economy and businesses.

Tourism is an economic powerhouse, it creates jobs, growth and helps reduce the national deficit, not add to it.”

According to the figures, holiday visits accounted for the biggest increase in foreign tourists, with a rise of 43 per cent to a total of 157,000 visits.

The largest number of visits to Yorkshire during these six months, 71,000, came from the US, whose visitor numbers increased 59 per cent from the same period the previous year.

The second-highest number of visitors was from France, with 56,000, and there was also a rise in tourists from Australia and the Netherlands.

Figures released in August for a three-month period last summer showed York was the most visited city in Yorkshire and was a priority destination for Australians, Americans and Chinese tourists, coming higher up in their most visited cities than other nationalities.

For Australians, York is the fourth most visited city after London, Edinburgh and Bath, and the sixth most visited city by Americans. For Chinese holidaymakers to Britain, York was the fifth most visited city after London, Edinburgh, Oxford, Cambridge and Manchester.