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News release - Issued by Make It York

York launches new International Tourism Drive – on World Tourism Day

York will be showcased to an international audience of travel agents, tour operators and media as part of a brand new drive to increase overseas visitors to the city. This new international campaign is being led by Visit York, a part of Make It York, working closely with VisitBritain and York and North Yorkshire visitor attractions. The new twelve month tourism campaign, being launched today (World Tourism Day), will focus on attracting new visitors to York from the United States, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand.

International marketing will kick off this week when Visit York will be setting its sights firmly on America. Product Manager, Elaine Moss, is in Los Angeles this week to attend the two day travel convention: Destination Britain North America. Elaine will have a schedule of appointments, meeting face to face with forty of the USA’s top tour operators, such as Cox and Kings, Virgin Vacations and Rail Europe to convince them to put York into their 2019/20 holiday brochures and itineraries.

Key tourism partners joining in Visit York’s new international campaign are York Minster, JORVIK, York Museums Trust, York’s Chocolate Story, National Railway Museum, York Designer Outlet, Castle Howard, the Grand Hotel & Spa, City Cruises York, English Heritage and Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre.

In this new international drive, Visit York will promoting York with UKInbound, Britain’s leading travel association and the European Tour Operators Association, as well as showcasing the city at VisitBritain’s Explore GB event in March 2018 in Newcastle. ExploreGB is the national tourism organisation’s annual flagship event, where Great British & Irish tourism suppliers and destinations meet and do business with up to 300 hosted international travel buyers from 40+ countries.

In partnership with UKInbound Visit York will for the first time host a brand new two day Discover York event in May 2018, aimed at bringing thirty of the top European Tour Operators into the city. The Discover workshop will be half day event which includes pre-arranged meetings with international tour operators. Tour operators will be offered VIP tours of York in what will be an unprecedented opportunity for York’s businesses to showcase their tourism offer to the top travel trade contacts.

A new initiative will also see digital marketing targeted at specialist German and Dutch Tour Operators to promote York for their 2019 holiday brochures and as part of this an online dedicated York Visitor guide will be produced in German. York’s international marketing activity will also include working with England’s Heritage Cities (a consortium of historic cities), continuing work on Discover England Fund activity (which led to the creation of the York Minter augmented reality app this year) to create bookable itineraries for the travel trade in the United States, as well as promotions with P&O Ferries,, Leeds Bradford International Airport and Virgin Trains.

Louise Gee, Director of Sales, the Grand Hotel & Spa, who will be joining Elaine this week in the States said, “We’re delighted to be a key partner in this new overseas marketing drive, increasing awareness of York and beyond. We’re particularly keen to target American visitors who we know will love York’s only five star hotel.”

On the China front, a new programme of China Welcome training will be rolled out during 2018, to help ensure even more of York’s visitor attractions and hotels become ‘China Friendly.’ These specialist courses, co-ordinated by Visit York, have already seen twenty businesses in York attain VisitBritain ‘China Welcome’ status. A fourth edition of the York Visitor Guide will be published in Mandarin, which will see 35,000 copies of the guide distributed at visa centres in China and on incoming airlines and key airport lounges and hotels.

A joint initiative (now in its second year) with Marketing Manchester, Hainan Airlines and VisitBritain, to promote the direct airline route from Manchester to Beijing (increased from this summer to daily) will also see York included in familiarisation visits by the Chinese travel trade and press and included on Marketing Manchester’s Chinese social media channels and the city’s Chinese visitor guide. Flying the flag for York in China York will also be showcased to 80 tour operators in November this year, when Visit York Marketing Manager, Michelle Brown, will be taking York’s Chinese brochure to Guangzhou, partnering with Castle Howard at the Destination Britain China event there.
A York video (produced in 2014) narrated in Mandarin Chinese has already generated 500,000 views and Chinese social media channels Weibo and Wechat have gained 22,000 followers, led by York’s Tourism Ambassador and Head of the China School in York, Will Zhuang.

Michelle Brown, Marketing Manager, Visit York, said, “This new international campaign will see us doing business with up to 500 international buyers and media from six key overseas markets. The US remains our number one priority market and we know our American visitors love the history and heritage we have to offer. We have a perfect opportunity now, with exchange rates delivering good value for money for overseas visitors and more airline routes into the North, to showcase York more than ever before.”

Virgin Atlantic has increased its routes from Manchester and now has six US gateways; San Francisco, Boston, Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York and Orlando. Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, said, “York is rich in history and heritage and so well suited to deliver tourism product for these markets. We’re committed to raising the profile and maximising direct bookings to York; promoting it as a fantastic place to visit as well as putting the assets of the city and North Yorkshire firmly on the map.”

The total number of visitors from overseas to York is 231,000, 4% percent of all leisure visitors (5.9 million leisure visitors). 1 in 8 of York’s staying (ie overnight) visitors are from overseas, or 174,000 out of a total of 1.3m staying visitors.

Just over 100,000 of York’s overseas visitors are coming from our target markets, with
9% of York’s 231,000 inbound visitors from China (approx. 22k), 5% from Germany (approx. 11k), 11% from Australia and New Zealand (approx. 25k, with about 4 out of 5 of these coming from Australia), 2% from the Netherlands (approx. 5k) and 16% from the United States (approx. 38k). (Note these figures are the latest available and are for the year 2015).

Visitors from the US have long held the top spot in terms of their numbers coming to York each year, with Australia and Germany also consistently featuring in the top five markets. The Chinese market is the quickest changing, having jumped up the rankings from 10th place in 2013 to second place now. Tourism experts at Visit York predict it will still be a while before China catches up to the US, as in 2015 York welcomed twice as many visitors from the US as from China. Australia and Germany hold the 3rd and 4th place spots respectively.

International visitors spend on average £165 per person per trip, £99 more than a domestic visitor who spends £66 per person per trip. (This is an average based on day and overnight visitor spend). York attracts a total (leisure and business visitors) of 6.9 million visitors annually, spending £564million and supporting 19.000 jobs.

In July this year, Visit Britain released its regional and county reports for inbound visitors to the UK in 2016, from the International Passenger Survey. This reported that 2016 was a record year for inbound tourism to the UK, with international visitor numbers up 4% vs 2015 to 37.6m inbound visits.

The report also suggests that York exceeded the national average growth and increased its number of international staying visitors by 10%, or 25,000 additional staying visitors.
York’s own analysis of international visits for 2016 will be available in the New Year and all the signs are that the results will be positive.

York is the 17th most visited city by overseas visitors in the UK. The top three being London, Edinburgh and Manchester. In July VisitBritain revised its forecast for 2017, following a successful Spring and Summer; in particular there was a record July, as reported in the media last week, with inbound visitor numbers to the UK breaking the 4million mark in a single month for the first time ever. VisitBritain forecasts there will be 6% year on year growth, taking inbound visitors to a potential total of 39.7m in 2017. If realised, this would be the biggest annual growth for the UK since 2006. Visit York’s new international marketing drive aims to increase international visitors and spend by 5% over the next year.


For further information please contact:

Kay Hyde – Head of PR and Communications – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554451
Mobile: 07506 048852

Katie Parsons – Senior Communications Executive – Visit York
Direct Line: 01904 554436

Notes To The Editor

York’s percentage figures for overseas visitors are based on results from the annual York Visitor Survey, commissioned by Visit York and conducted by PCP Market Research, a York based company. The most recent results are from 2015. The sample size is 1,000 leisure visitors of which just over 100 are from overseas. The Visitor Survey is a face to face survey which is primarily conducted to understand visitor profile and behaviour, eg how many nights visitors stay, activities they undertake and why they choose York.

The International Passenger Survey reports on the number of nights spent by overseas visitors in the UK (and where they stay). This is a nationally co-ordinated survey. We don’t yet have detailed data for York from this survey. The International Passenger Survey (IPS) is a continuous survey carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS). It covers all major air, sea and tunnel ports, providing detailed information on the numbers and types of visits made by people travelling to and from the UK. The survey began in 1946.

A note about the Visit York Annual Visitor Survey: Whilst the total percentage figures for overseas visits based on the overall total of all leisure visitors is reliable, drilling down to smaller sub groups reduces the reliability of the Visit York commissioned survey (due to the sample size) and so the actual country figures are used more as a guide, rather than completely accurate data. In the New Year (2018) more analysis comparing the annual IPS survey and the annual Visit York visitor survey will be conducted to gain a more complete picture on international visitor trends to York.

Discover England Fund
The three-year £40million Discover England fund, announced by Government in 2015, will ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry, by offering world-class English tourism products to the right customers at the right time. The fund supports the growth of one of England’s most successful export industries, inbound tourism. Tourism is an industry that delivers jobs and economic growth across the English regions - generating £106 billion a year and employing over two million people, with a strong domestic market. England has seen record tourism spend in the past year from both domestic and international visitors. The fund is administered by VisitEngland.
Market profiles


  • American visitors tend to be older than the average visitor to the UK: 49% of the American visitors were aged 45+ compared to a total average of 39%
  • California and New York generate the most visits with the 2 states representing almost a quarter of all visits from the USA to the UK
  • Almost 6 out of 10 American holiday visitors are making a repeat visit
  • 79% of visiting Americans say they are ‘extremely likely' to recommend Britain for a holiday or short-break
  • The USA is Britain’s 2nd largest source market for visits. (1st for spend)
  • Just over half of all holiday visitors are making a repeat trip to Britain New York and California are the States that generate the most visits to Britain United States of America

The picture for York:

  • The USA is York’s top source market and has been for at least 10 years (16% of all overseas visitors)


  • China is Britain’s 24th source market for visits (12th for spend)
  • China is now the most lucrative outbound travel market in the world, with a worldwide spend of US$261bn
  • Chinese visitors tend to be younger than the average visitor to the UK: half of Chinese visitors were aged 25-44 in 2016
  • Those visiting Britain from China are more likely than average to be making their first visit: only 30% of the holidaymakers from China departing the UK in 2015 (excluding British expats) were repeating a visit they made within the past 10 years
  • Outbound travel from China has grown steadily over the past five years and is forecast to continue to do so for the remainder of this decade
  • Virtually all holiday visitors are Chinese but one-fifth of visiting friends and relations (VFR) visitors are British expats
  • China ranks number 1 in the global rank for international tourism expenditure, followed by the United States
  • The picture for York
  • China is York’s biggest growing market in terms of volume. (9.5% of all overseas visitors including from Hong Kong). It is now the second source market
  • China is estimated to be York’s 2nd largest overseas market. Entering the top 5 two years ago.
  • In 2016 a new direct route from Beijing to Manchester with Hainan Airlines (Now daily), was launched
  • York also has a sister city agreement with Nanjing for future tourism, education and business activity – launched summer 2017
  • Only 1 in 5 Chinese visitors stay overnight in York, most are on a multi destination trip and just spend the day here before moving on to their next stop on their itinerary


  • Australia is Britain’s 10th largest source market for visits. (4th for spend)
  • Australia is estimated to be York’s 3rd largest market. (9%) In top 5 for last 10 years
  • 62% of holiday visitors are making a repeat trip to Britain (within the past ten years)
  • 13% of visits from Australia are by British nationals 44% of Australian trips to the UK are VFR.

The picture for York

  • Australians spend the longest time in York - 3.45 days
  • Australia is York’s third source market
  • Australians often come to York to visit friends and relatives


  • Germany is Britain’s 3rd most important market for visits. (2nd for spend)
  • 62% of holiday visitors are making a repeat visit to Britain
  • Virtually all holiday and business visitors are German but one in five of visiting friends and relations (VFR) visitors are British nationals

The picture for York

  • Germany is York’s 4th largest international source market. (5% of all international visitors)
  • Germany has consistently featured in the top 5 international marketing for York over the last 10 years

The Netherlands

  • The Netherlands is Britain’s 8th most important market for visits. (9th for spend)
  • 12% of holiday visitors are travelling as part of a tour group
  • Three quarters of visitors are making a repeat trip to Britain
  • 30% bring their own vehicle which is high, compared to other markets
  • 85% of visitors are Dutch while 7% are Britons
  • Most visitors live in Amsterdam, Rotterdam or The Hague

The picture for York

  • York’s 11th largest international market. (2% of all overseas visits)
  • Has regularly featured in York’s top 10 overseas markets over the last 10 years
  • Dutch visitors are more likely to stay overnight than the average overseas visitor - 74% stay at least one night in York, compared to 62% on average

*Note Spain is York’s fifth largest international source market, followed by Canada, Japan, France, Italy and New Zealand. The Netherlands, though, has been chosen as a top five international market to target, due to its ease of reach in terms of marketing and its potential to grow as a source market.

About VisitBritain

  • VisitBritain is the strategic body for inbound tourism, ensuring that international tourism continues to deliver economic growth and jobs across the nations and regions of Britain.
  • Our strength is that we understand international customers and markets. Our international network of offices which covers 22 markets is a resource supporting the industry and destinations to grow the value of tourism exports. We are a founding partner of the GREAT campaign working alongside organisations such as the FCO, UKTI and The British Council. We know what motivates overseas customers to travel and how to inspire them to choose Britain.

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, 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.

Key tourism facts:
6.9 million visitors annually, £564 million total visitor spend, supporting 19,000 jobs