In Autumn 2020, Make it York commissioned Group NAO to elaborate on how York’s visitor economy could ‘build back better’ post pandemic. Peter Rømer Hansen talked delegates through their “5 dogmas for the new visitor economy: the city belongs to the citizens, growth in visitor numbers is not a goal in itself, tourism can be a regenerative resource, leadership needed and tourism is a fluid concept”.
Peter Rømer Hansen also shared the five key messages that came from their discussions with key stakeholders in York: “We need a grand plan for urban development and the role of tourism connecting the dots of a thriving city, let’s maintain a strong connection with the locals who have rediscovered the city centre during COVID, we need leadership to become a sustainable destination, all in on culture! - and not just heritage – is a broadly shared aspiration and finally, we have a lot of things going, perhaps also a bit of complacency.”
The full report from Group NAO, ‘Y Tourism?’, which explores what kind of tourism York wants in the future – and how can the visitor economy make York a better city can be found here.
Finally, Aileen Crawford, Head of Tourism & Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau, discussed how Glasgow has grown their business tourism in line with the city’s sustainable strategy: “Back in 2016, we realised that the fastest growing key sector for our conference world was in low-carbon and energy related conferences. So we were looking to see how we could match the city story and convention bureau support to attract more low carbon and energy related conferences. In 2019, our last full year of conference business, you can see that we hosted 25 conferences in this key theme and that attracted over 11,500 delegates worth £8.5 million to the local economy from delegate spend.”
Aileen also touched upon the demand for more sustainable tourism: “Just looking for searches in your own city, you can see that TripAdvisor, Conde Nast, Expedia, allow green searches to come on board. And you can see that that is driven by the customer, driven by the guests, wanting to stay in your hotels and wanting to come to our cities for meetings. We noticed that the Glasgow Convention Bureau website, we have implemented a search for green accredited venues and hotels, that search went up by 150% in 2021.”
Clare Frisby then chaired the Talking Heads panel, with Castle Howard’s Abbi Ollive, York BID’s Andrew Lowson, Galtres Lodge’s Rebecca Hill and LNER’s Kate McFerran. All panellists said they were optimistic for York’s future, with Abbi Ollive sharing that Castle Howard has “just come out of the back of a record-breaking Christmas... bigger and better than 2019” and that by “pre-ticketing some of our big events and phasing the entry, the visitor experience goes up”.
Andrew Lowson from York BID started off with some positive stats from York’s footfall data: “if you look at this December just gone and compare it with December 2019, before the pandemic, York was only 5% down in terms of its footfall and that was compared to the UK average of –22% down”. Andrew also addressed the “myth that local people don’t use York city centre”, as data shows that 30% of those who used the city centre in December 2021 were residents (residing inside the outer ring-road) and last summer, in the height of the tourism season between July and September, 26% of spend came from local people.
York has recovered well from the loss of international travellers, with Galtres Lodge’s Rebecca Hill citing that “what we’ve lost has been replaced with other markets – residents, locals, a bit further afield staycationers in the hotels... Aside from a few (businesses) who have said yes international is a really big draw for us, the majority have said yes whilst there has been a decline from that market it has been replaced, sometimes over and above, by other markets.”
Headline sponsors LNER’s Kate McFerran said they brought “around half a million people into York last year” and that leisure has led their recovery to the extent that when they reached November/December 2021, they had reached 92.3% of their pre-Covid figures.
Make It York’s Chair, Greg Dyke, closed the conference by recognising how “devastating” the pandemic was initially for the tourism industry and well done to York’s businesses for surviving it. Greg Dyke also commented on “how increasingly important sustainability is going to be to the tourism industry. If we want the tourists of the future, we will have to demonstrate that York is a green city and the plan to make York and North Yorkshire carbon neutral as soon as possible, I think is important to all our businesses”.
All slides and presentations from VYCON22 can be found here.
Notes to editors:
VYCON22 is a Make It York event, supported by headline sponsors LNER. The event is also sponsored by fidomoney, Golden Tours, Deans Computer Services Ltd and YorkMix Radio.
For further information please contact:
Sarah Foster and Brittany Guymer – Communications team at Make It York
About Make It York
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 and culture.
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.
About the Speakers
Richard Nicholls, Head of Research and Forecasting at VisitBritain
Richard Nicholls joined VisitBritain in 2015 as Head of Research and Forecasting. He and his team are responsible for analysis of inbound tourism data, insights and prospects both for VisitBritain and for the benefit of the wider UK tourism industry.
Signe Jungersted and Peter Rømer Hansen, Founding Partners at Group NAO
Signe Jungersted and Peter Rømer Hansen are founding partners in innovation and strategy agency Group NAO. Group NAO works with strategic transformation and innovation within the experience and visitor economy. Recent projects include 101sustainableideas.com with Gothenburg, Power of Community series with European Cities Marketing, ‘Tourism Taxes by Design’ and ‘Time for DMOcracy’ as multi-client projects.
Aileen Crawford, Head of Tourism & Conventions at Glasgow Convention Bureau
Aileen is Head of Tourism & Conventions at the award-winning Glasgow Convention Bureau, responsible for the successful positioning of Glasgow as a conference destination for national and international association meetings. In addition, Aileen’s role includes Destination Management, working in partnership with industry, VisitScotland and Glasgow City Council in collaboration to develop and improve the visitor experience.
Abbi Ollive, Head of Marketing and Sales at Castle Howard
Andrew Lowson, Executive Director at York BID
Rebecca Hill, Managing Director at Galtres Lodge
Kate McFerran, Communications Director at LNER