Issued by: Visit York 
Issue date: 17 January 2020

  • 2018 headline tourism figures revealed
  • A refreshed Tourism Strategy for the city outlined
  • New marketing initiatives announced for 2020 and beyond

Stay longer and explore more; this was the main message for York’s visitors over 2020 and beyond, as ambitions and plans for the future of tourism in the city were shared at Visit York’s annual Tourism Conference yesterday, sponsored by LNER and held at York Racecourse.  

The event, compered by BBC Look North & BBC Radio York Presenter Clare Frisby had a line up of expert tourism speakers including: Andrew Palmer, Director of Creative Tourist Consults; Anthony Pickles, Head of Tourism Affairs at VisitBritain; David Horne, Managing Director of LNER; and Melanie Sensicle, Chair of England’s Historic Cities, which will be welcomed by Sean Bullick, Managing Director of Make It York.   A panel of tourism businesses including Castle Howard, The Grand Hotel & Spa, City Cruises and The Potions Cauldron also shared their insights into attracting and welcoming international audiences.

Headline figures using a new and improved research methodology for the impact of tourism in York for 20181 were revealed which show York received 8.4 million visits, bringing an economic value of £765 million and supporting over 24,000 jobs.  Within the new research model2, this equates to an increase of 12%, or 900, 000 more visits, a 20%, or £126m, increase in the value of tourism and 3,000 more jobs within the city’s tourism industry over the last five years. 

The latest York Visitor Survey results (2018)1, the first published since 2015, also revealed:

  • Day visitors are still the largest segment of the audience profile, accounting for 4 out of every 5 visitors, with a small growth in overnight visits of 4,000 more visits or 316,000 more bednights.
  • Decline in the length of stay which now sits at 2.2 nights, continuing the steady decline seen over the last decade of around 4% per year. 
  • Stable number of international visits to the city at 289,000 (vs a UK wide decline in inbound visits of 5% from 2017)
  • Top five international markets for York are US (16% of all international visits, unchanged from 2015); China (12%, up from 9%); Australia (11%, up from 9%); Germany (8%, up from 5%) and Canada re-entered the top 5 at 8% of all visits, a position held by Spain in 2017. 
  • Top things visitors enjoy doing when in York: 99% enjoy the ambience of the city (up from 91%); 93% enjoy the city’s food and drink offering (up from 89%); 73% enjoy shopping (up from 71%) 74% of visitors are going to attractions (up from 63%); 11% are visiting friends and relatives (up from 10%) and 11% enjoy taking part in a festival (up from 6%).
  • Visitor satisfaction score has grown to 4.75 out of 5 (up from 4.58)
  • 99% of visitors would recommend a visit to York to their friends and family (same)
  • Sustainable methods of travel into the city by visitors is increasing, with car use declining (down 11%, to 55%). 39% of all visitors to York now come into York by train (up from 30%)

Delegates heard how the city’s latest tourism insights are informing a refresh of the York Tourism Strategy, a continuation of the 2014 edition, which retains the aim to create a £1 billion tourism industry by 2025. Due for launch later this year, the latest edition of the strategy will aim to create a robust, sustainable and profitable destination that focuses on the enjoyment of the city for all.  Welcoming people from all over the world and those that already live here to engage and enjoy in all that York has to offer year-round.

Presenting the next chapter for tourism in York was Paul Whiting, Head of Marketing and Communications at Make It York.  Paul said ‘“It is exciting to be able to share the successes of York’s thriving tourism industry, we have seen continued growth in the value of tourism to the city and indeed, to see that over 8 million people from across the globe come to enjoy their Only In York experience. However, our continued focus over the next five years, through the updated tourism strategy is to increase the value and not the volume of tourism to the city, be that monetary or experiential. This emphasis on value will not only benefit visitors but importantly the residents of York, who are an important part of the visitor experience. I have been inspired by the notion of Localhood that we showcased at last year’s Tourism Conference and we will be working hard this year to ensure that everyone is aware and part of the world-leading experiences on offer in our city and beyond.”

The latest marketing plans were also revealed as a new campaign to continue the collaboration with the North York Moors National Park was announced, tempting audiences to discover the delights of the city and be awed by the stunning vistas during the Dark Skies Festival. Targeting audiences from London and the South East, activity will include out of home advertising at key travel routes, an integrated radio and digital campaign with Classic FM as well as new web pages on and a promotional video showcasing the two centre break. 

A series of hands-on training events for tourism businesses to ensure they are ‘travel-trade’ ready will also take place from this year, with the first one set to take place in London in April. These events will connect representatives from the major travel brands with York tourism businesses.  There will also be a refocus for business tourism marketing to drive longer-staying, high value events to the city. 

The announcement was also made that Bloom! will also be returning for a week long event from 20 – 28 June 2020, centred on the theme of ‘Art in Nature’.  Further details are set to be released this Spring.


For further information please contact: 

Katie Parsons – Corporate Communications Manager 
Direct Line: 01904 551846 

Amy Goodman – Consumer Communications Manager
Direct Line: 01904 554451

Notes to editors:

  1. The headline tourism figures are generated from the Economic Impact Research, which combines national data from the International Passenger Survey, the GB Tourism Survey and the GB Day Visits Survey, along with locally gathered data from bedstock records, the York Hotel Occupancy Survey, the York Visitor Attractions’ Monitor and analysis of spend and behaviour data from the York Visitor Survey using the Cambridge Model.   A further more detailed analysis of the data released from this model will be released at a later date.  The York Visitor Survey is our own research, conducted by Qa Research and which we use to generate an insight into visitor profile. 
  2. The methodological improvements to the way in which economic data is calculated using the Cambridge Model have allowed us to measure the number of visitors who are coming into York with increased accuracy, visitors who may have already been coming to the city but have not been counted.  The full explanation on this improved methodology is below and the recalculated data for York  (allowing for results to be compared year on year) is as follows:

Total Number Of Visits To York Per Annum:    2014    2015    2016    2017    2018
Previously Reported Data                                  6.8m    6.9m            
Re-Calculated Data                                             7.5m    7.6m    8.1m    8.0m    8.4m

Total Visitor spend in York per annum:    2014      2015      2016        2017       2018
Previously reported data                         £608m    £564m               
Re-calculated data                                   £639m    £599m    £648m    £670m    £765m
Total jobs supported by tourism in York per annum:    2014       2015      2016       2017       2018
Previously reported data                                                21,350    19,600    20,700    21,350    24,400
Re-calculated data                                                           20,300    18,500               

Background to the methodological improvements to the GB Day Visits Survey
VisitEngland conduct two surveys to measure the volume and value of domestic tourism; the GBTS (GB Tourism Survey, for overnight tourism) and the GBDVS (GB Day Visits Survey).  Their methodology differs from our own, in that the data is collected in follow up interviews where respondents are asked about domestic trips taken recently, rather than face-to-face interviews with visitors in the destination (as for the York Visitor Survey).
At the start of 2016, VE implemented improvements to make the online survey more engaging and easier to complete, which resulted in day visitors recalling more detail about recent trips.   
Impact of the methodological improvements on the data and the interpretation of long-term trends
Parallel testing of the old and new methodologies undertaken in early 2016 found that the combined effect of these changes was an increase in levels of visits reported by respondents of around +15%.  That is the surveys recorded 15% more day trips that previously went un-recalled, not that the number of day trips taken had increased by 15%.
To take account of this change and maintain comparability of trends, the data from the 2011 to 2015 in the GBDVS report have all been revised to take into account this increase of +15%.  All data for 2011 to 2015 as previously published is referred to as ‘historical’ while the figures which include the 15% adjustment are referred to as ‘reweighted’.
See slide 18 of the ‘Methods and Performance’ document by VisitBritain, for a full explanation of the rationale behind the methodology change and re-weighting the historical data.

Conference Timings
9.00     Registration, Refreshments & Networking 

9.30     Clare Frisby 
BBC Look North & BBC Radio York Presenter 
9.35     William Derby 
Chief Executive and Clerk of the Course, York Racecourse
9.40    Sean Bullick 
Managing Director, Make It York  

9.45     Paul Whiting 
Head of Leisure and Corporate Marketing & Communications, Make It York
A year in review and a new chapter for tourism

10.10     Anthony Pickles 
Head of Tourism Affairs, Visit Britain
Tourism sector deal and the opportunities this brings 

10.30     David Horne
Managing Director, LNER
The launch of Azuma and travelling with LNER

10.45     Refreshments & Networking

11.15     Melanie Sensicle 
Project Director, England Originals
England Originals, history and heritage for millennials 

11.25     Talking Heads: 
How working internationally can benefit your business
               Abbi Ollive, Head of Marketing and Sales, Castle Howard
               Louise Gee, Director of Sales, The Grand York
               Phil Pinder, Co-owner of The Potion’s Cauldron, Shambles York
               Mark Mattinson, Sales and Marketing Manager, City Cruises York

12.00    Andrew Palmer
Director, Creative Tourist     
Lessons in how to embrace York's place narrative opportunity, from a city that did

12.45     Lunch & Networking 

Make It York’s purpose is to develop and promote the city and its surroundings – nationally and internationally - as a vibrant and attractive place to live, visit, study, work and do business.  The company’s remit covers leisure and business tourism, city centre management, festivals and events, business support and inward investment.

Visit York is a part of Make It York and is the leisure tourism brand 
Under the brand Visit York, Make It York’s aim is to market York as a must-see world-class destination to the leisure visitor and ensure investment to develop the quality of tourism in York.