New tourism recovery strategy for York reveals new events, a low-key Christmas and targeting of older visitors

York's Christmas lights switch-on event will not take place this year and its St Nicholas Fair festive markets are uncertain to go ahead.

York faces a low-key Christmas without major events

Make It York have now released a new tourism recovery strategy for the city as they prepare for an immediate future without international tourists.

They have moved the focus from Christmas - traditionally a busy period in York's calendar - to new festivals which allow for more outdoor activities and social distancing.

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Events include a York Food Festival weekend on September 25-27, which will include cooking workshops, demonstrations and a 'Taste Trail' across the city centre.

York Minster

York BID will also hold their Restaurant Week to support the hospitality sector from October 12-18.

Other events expected to drive footfall include York Mediale, the Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Indie York's treasure hunts.

City of York Council have pledged £100,000 towards marketing aimed at tourists, and more research will be carried out to ensure both businesses' and visitors' needs are being served.

The strategy document also reveals that Make It York aims to target families and retirees rather than millennials.

The assumption is that most visitors for the remainer of 2020 and beyond will be day trippers travelling from the Yorkshire and north of England region. Pre-pandemic, these visitors already made up around a quarter of tourists. Sixty-five per cent of visitors were aged over 45, and 18 per cent retirees over 65. Only 15 per cent were under the age of 35.

Retired visitors also spend the largest amount of money per head when in York.

The document states: "Our older, traditional and retired visitors are anticipated to be more cautious, and may continue to be shielded or choose to stay away, unless they are confident that sufficient safety measures are in place, and accordingly this is something we are prioritising strongly in our messaging.

"Initial research from City of York Council’s Our Big Conversation resident online survey tells us residents are planning to visit café/restaurant/bars and take day trips/short holidays although they have less confidence visiting York city centre.

"Given the current restrictions and changing quarantine regulations, it is anticipated that international visitors will return late in 2021/22."

A section on Christmas confirms that a decision has not yet been made on whether the markets can go ahead, but that the lights switch-on will be virtual this year.

One idea is for an 'advent calendar trail' using shop windows.

Make It York managing director Sean Bullick said:“York has a world-class tourism and leisure industry and ensuring its continued success is absolutely vital. Through investment in targeted marketing and advertising activity we are working with City of York Council to promote York’s unique offering in new and creative ways.

"As outlined in the strategy, this includes supporting events such as the York Food Festival Weekend later this month and creating a series of new experiences, trails and events to draw residents and visitors back into the city to explore. Over the next few months we will also be rolling out targeted print, digital and broadcast advertising to inspire key audiences to experience York as a staycation destination.

“Working alongside York’s attractions, retailers, hoteliers and the city’s hospitality businesses is key to the strategy’s success which is why we are keen to invite businesses to our virtual tourism conference later in the year to discuss our plans for 2021 and the exciting opportunities to work together.”

Coun Darryl Smalley from City of York Council added: “We have already seen a strong summer with visitors returning to the city. It’s been a really positive start and with York’s tourism sector supporting over 24,000 local jobs it is vital we do what we can to keep this sector buoyant and successful through autumn and winter.

"Footfall is likely to decrease as the summer holiday period ends, and we recognise how important it is to draw residents and visitors into the city to rediscover hidden gems, support our local businesses and enjoy what the city has to offer once more.

“I’d like to thank the whole sector for their support in delivering this plan. It’s only through the hard work of the tourism, cultural and retail businesses and organisations who adapted so quickly to keep people safe, that we are able to confidently shout about how York is safely open for business.”