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News release - Issued by Make It York

Visit York pledges smarter digital marketing and announces latest tourism figures at annual tourism conference

300 delegates from across the tourism sector in York, Yorkshire and beyond, will today (Wednesday 17 January) attend VYCON, the Visit York annual tourism conference. At the event Head of Visit York, Sally Greenaway, will pledge to ensure the city’s marketing will get even smarter, ensuring York stays ahead of its competitors in the year ahead.

Themed, ‘Tourism Marketing in the Digital Age’, sponsored by Leeds Bradford International Airport and compered by BBC Presenter Clare Frisby, delegates will hear from a variety of speakers who are experts in their field.

A new digital marketing campaign will be launched during English Tourism Week in March and planning for this is now full steam ahead. ‘Only in York’ will feature everything that makes York stand out and different to other destinations. Attractions, shops, restaurants and other tourism venues will be encouraged to join together to use the Twitter hashtag #onlyinyork.

Some impressive figures will be shared at the conference today too, as well as the very latest tourism figures for hotel and bed occupancy and visits to attractions for January 2017 to December 2017.

Hotel room occupancy was up by 1.4% v 2016, with the average occupancy at 79%. Average room rates were up by 2.4% and reached a £97 average for the whole year. Visits to attractions were up by 4.5% (like for like comparison, excluding Jorvik) and the re-opening of JORVIK added an additional 328,000 visitors, taking the total year on year gain to 17%.

A total of 2.8 million visits (excluding Jorvik figures) were made to attractions in 2017 v 2.6 million in 2016. When Jorvik figures are added the total is an impressive 3.1 million. These are the *second best results since records began in 2005.

York also enjoyed its most successful St Nicholas Fair and was named most Festive City in the UK in a survey of positive social media comments, conducted by Virgin Trains. During the York Christmas Festival footfall in Parliament Street exceeded 1 million (1,009,728) for the first time ever and footfall was also up by 5% on the previous year.

Sally will also reveal how Visit York has increased its social media following with Instagram seeing the biggest growth at 127% followed by Facebook at 30% and Twitter at 10% growth.

Sally said: “Millennials in particular, which are a growing audience for us, are much more likely to visit somewhere they have seen in their social media streams. And over 90% of consumers say that social media influences their buying decisions. So we really must take advantage of this and ensure digital communications continue to be a key channel for us in 2018 and complement our traditional marketing.”

York Pass, the city sightseeing pass, had its best year yet too in terms of sales. 94,000 visits were made to York attractions with a York Pass in 2017, a 55% year on year increase.

Maximising digital channels will be the focus of Sally’s message. “It is absolutely crucial we are able to offer every visitor a First Class experience when researching about York, whether pre trip, during their trip or after they have visited. Our new website launching in the spring will play a critical part in our digital strategy, but also, customer relationship management is a massive opportunity for the year ahead.”

Making York stand out from other destinations will be at the very heart of everything Visit York does this year. 2018 will promise the best festival line-up yet, including the return of the York Balloon Fiesta and new events such as Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean Theatre, Bloom! celebrating 250 years of the oldest Florists’ Society in the world and the brand new International Festival of Media Arts, York Mediale.

Headlining at the event is Simon Calder, Travel Editor of the Independent and widely known as Britain’s leading travel commentator. Simon will inspire the audience with personal insights and travel experiences and offer advice on how York can stay ahead of its competitors. Meanwhile CEO of VisitBritain Sally Balcombe will offer a national tourism perspective in her address titled, ‘State of the Nation.’

Author Andy Whittaker has been described as the ‘best thing to come out of Morecombe since the M6 motorway’ and his presentation will focus on harnessing the power of positive psychology and offer tips from his best-selling book, ‘The Art of Being Brilliant.’

Adding to the line-up, Olly Markeson, Brand Director at Virgin Red, will offer his insight into why the Virgin brand is so successful and guests from some of York’s most successful tourism businesses will take part in a panel discussion on tourism marketing in the digital age.

Chris Sanders, Aviation Development Director at Leeds Bradford Airport, said: “As the international gateway for Yorkshire, we are proud to support an event that highlights the importance of the tourism sector to York and the wider region. With a number of exciting new developments planned in 2018, including a multi-million pound redevelopment of the terminal facilities, Leeds Bradford Airport is committed to continuing to help develop both business and leisure tourism in the city and we look forward to working closely with Visit York in the year ahead.”

Sally continued: “We’re delighted 2017 was a brilliant year for tourism in York. Looking ahead, harnessing new technologies and ensuring our digital marketing is pin sharp and focussed is a key priority. This year we have a stronger programme of festivals and events than ever before and we’ll be making sure we maximise this potential to help reach our ambition of creating a £1 billion tourism sector by 2024.”


For further information please contact:

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

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

Notes to editors:

*In 2013 visits to attracted reached the record 3.3 million visits, when the great gathering of A4’s arrived at the National Railway Museum.

Photo Opportunity: 11:15 – at the main entrance to the Knavesmire stand of York Racecourse. Simon Calder and Sally Greenaway will be in front of the balloon basket (supplied by York Balloon Fiesta),

Wednesday 17 January 2018 – 09:30 -14:30, Voltigeur Suite, York Racecourse
09.00 Registration, Refreshments and Networking
09.30 Welcome from Clare Frisby, BBC Look North and Radio York Presenter
09.35 William Derby, Chief Executive and Clerk, York Racecourse, welcome
09.40 Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York, Spotlight on tourism
10.00 Sally Balcombe, CEO, VisitBritain, The State of the Nation

Tourism Panel: What’s your story?
Paul Whiting – Marketing Manager, The JORVIK Group of Attractions
Peter Hanson – Owner, The Cat Gallery
Jessica Gibson – Travel Blogger,
Andy Herrington – Owner, Ainsty Ales
Tarik Abdeladim – Owner, Los Moros
Polly Bennett – Founder/editor, Little Vikings (York for kids)

10.50 Olly Markeson, Brand Director, Virgin Red
Why is the Virgin brand so successful?
11.10 Refreshments and Networking
11.30 Tom Pearcy, Director, York Maze
Introduces Andy Whittaker
11.35 Andy Whittaker
The Art of Being Brilliant
12.15 Simon Calder, Senior Travel Editor, The Independent, TV and Radio Broadcaster
Upping our game
12.45 Lunch and Networking
14.30 Event Closes

Speaker and compere biographies

Simon Calder is Britain's leading travel commentator and is known as “the man who pays his way”, which means that he pays for his own travel. He began his career at Gatwick airport, where he cleaned out planes for Sir Freddie Laker and, later, frisked passengers (for a job, that is; not a hobby). He then started to write travel guidebooks and travel articles. Today Simon is Senior Travel Editor of The Independent. Simon also writes for the Evening Standard, the i newspaper, Waitrose Weekend and BA’s inflight magazine, High Life plus a host of other publications. Once a month, he presents the Global Guru section of The Travel Show (BBC Worldwide and BBC2) where he answers viewers travel questions and queries.

Andy Whittaker is a trainer, best-selling author and frustrated comic. He is also a Neuro Linguistic Programming trainer and master of time line therapy. Andy is firmly rooted in the real world has been described as the best thing to come out of Morecambe since the M6 motorway. Andy has spent a great deal of time observing behaviour in companies big and small. More importantly, he has spent his time learning about leadership, communication, human interaction and positive psychology. Andy co-wrote ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’, ‘Be Brilliant Everyday’ and ‘The Art of Being a Brilliant Teenager’ (Capstone/Wiley) with Andy Cope and has claimed all the really good bits as his own. Their new book, ‘Happiness Route Map’ (Hodder) is due in the autumn and ‘Diary of a Brilliant Teenager’ is scheduled for Spring 18.

Sally Balcombe, CEO VisitBritain
Sally joined the VisitBritain team as CEO in September 2014. Before that she was part of the VisitBritain board from 2013. From 2008 to 2011 she was Chief Marketing Officer for Travelport GDS, responsible for marketing, the product portfolio, strategy, pricing and global communications. Before joining Travelport, Sally held a number of senior international roles in the travel industry, most recently as Commercial and Product Director at Opodo, the pan-European on-line travel agency set up by the major European airlines (2004-2006). Prior to that, she held the roles of Managing Director of the TUI-owned Specialist Sun Holiday Group, and Managing Director of British Airways Holidays, which operated in 75 markets worldwide.
Sally is also a Commissioner for English Heritage, a Governor of the Museum of London and sits as a Non-Executive Director of two on-line businesses.

Olly Markeson, Brand Director, Virgin Red.
Ollie is responsible for the Virgin Group Brand. See Linked In for more details.

Sally Greenaway, Head of Visit York. Sally has always lived and worked in York, predominately within the tourism industry. In September 1999 Sally started her career in tourism working for Best Western Hotels where she was responsible for the strategic direction of their global loyalty programme, Gold Crown Club International. Ten years later, Sally took a break from loyalty marketing after starting a family and set up her own business, creating two children’s labels - Green Child and OscarLily, whereby she designed and manufactured children’s clothing and bedding, selling her brands through national and international retailers as well as through her own website.

In 2011 Sally moved back into tourism marketing and began her career within the rail industry, working for East Coast Trains, managing their CRM and loyalty programme, East Coast Rewards. Following the refranchise in 2015, Sally started a new role with Virgin Trains, whereby she became Loyalty Manager, responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of their collection of loyalty programmes, which included Nectar, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Virgin Red and Virgin Trains Rewards and Recognition programme. She joined Visit York in February 2017.

Clare Frisby is a presenter for the Yorkshire and North-Midlands version of Look North and she also presents the popular Radio York Saturday morning show, Finders Keepers. Clare presents the lunchtime bulletins on Look North each weekday. During her time with ‘Look North’, she has won BT News Broadcaster of the Year award for the North East and Yorkshire. She studied Politics at Hull University, graduating in 1989. She became a BBC News trainee in London in October 1989 and worked in newsrooms throughout the UK for the BBC and was one of the few female reporters in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. She was at BBC Radio York for four years. Her television début was as a presenter on Look North and went on to present other bulletins for the region.
Clare was one of 18 high-profile Yorkshire women chosen by Councillor Bernard Atha to share the role of consort Lady Mayoress of Leeds 2000–01.

Notes to Editor

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