York goes Danish to make tourists feel at home

In the West Country they were grockles and in Yorkshire, ofcumdens '“ out-of-towners to be tolerated rather than welcomed, and to be greeted with a shrug, if at all.

Afternoon tea on the Countess of York 1956 luxury dining carraige at the National Railway Museum in York
Afternoon tea on the Countess of York 1956 luxury dining carraige at the National Railway Museum in York

But in an age in which travel information is shared by “social influencers” instead of brochures, and thousands employed in the pursuit of tourism, residents and guests in the county’s biggest visitor hotspot have found themselves singing from the same hymn sheet.

Local knowledge of homegrown customs, such as attending the choral Evensong at the Minster or taking tea on the restored Countess of York carriage at the National Railway Museum, is what visitors to a city value most, delegates to the annual tourism convention in York will be told later this month.

The keynote speaker will be Signe Jungerstad, director of development from the Danish capital of Copenhagen, which two years ago declared the “end of tourism as we know it” and the beginning of “localhood”, an attempt to give guests almost as much local knowledge as those who had lived there for years.

York Minster

She said: “What people want more and more is to connect with a place, get to know the locals and their personal recommendations.

“The travel industry is entering an era of change and it’s time to welcome the new traveller.”

York and Copenhagen, she said, had “much in common – a vibrant cultural scene, world-class museums and a strong local pride for what’s on our doorstep”.

Kay Hyde at Make It York, which promotes the city internationally, said one of the questions most asked by visitors was, ‘What do the locals do?’

Rising to the challenge, several groups of entrepreneurs were offering visitor-focused “taste tours” of the city’s best restaurants and pubs, and bicycle tours of its nooks and crannies.

“It’s about getting under the skin of the city, especially for second and third-time visitors who might have seen the Minster but perhaps not realised they could go back for Evensong and have a fabulous experience surrounded by incredible music,” Ms Hyde said.

Visitors were also being tempted outside the city centre by initiatives such as that on the part of Bishopthorpe Road south of the ancient walls, rebranded Bishy Road by its independent traders.

Another group of enthusiasts staged a weekend-long festival of the walls last summer.

“What we’re finding is that a lot of our visitors want to get recommendations from local people about what there is to do on the ground – and people are sharing advice a lot more on social media. We’re hoping to expand on that by working more with social influencers like blogs aimed at family audiences,” Ms Hyde said.

“They way people receive their information is all changing. They like to pick up a brochure when they’re here but they are also just as likely to look on Instagram.”

Paul Whiting, head of Visit York, said the city had to “pull out all the stops” to stand out from other destinations.

The tourist conference will take place at York Racecourse on January 24.